Here we go again. And again. Typically attributed to Albert Einstein, the quote that insanity means doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results aptly describes our anti-COVID-19 strategies.
First, announce the closing of borders but provide a hundred politically motivated exemptions. Then experience a tsunami of infections. Impose Draconian lockdowns but do little else. Yield to the influential to re-open. Experience another wave of infections. Lockdown again. Do nothing again. Yield again. Re-open. Repeat.
From Day One, when we deployed inexperienced, non-medical, and ill-qualified persons whose track records lay in entirely different disciplines to spearhead our frontline public health and vaccine initiatives, we doomed not simply healthcare but our economy and what recovery efforts we should be enjoying had we the right persons in place.
Conceptually, creating a dedicated multi-discipline Delta Force headed by the Department of Health (DOH), strictly adhering to the health sciences, intelligently managing our pandemic responses and answerable on a weekly basis was an inspired first move. Unfortunately, everything went south from there. We populated the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) with the kind of people we had in our bureaucracy. And we sank from the weight of leaden leadership as dense as pig iron and about as intelligent.
Credibility was and remains critical. At the top of the IATF totem pole was an official hounded by both extraneous and related controversies before, during and after the pandemic struck. From the intra-personal relationships among the IATF, to its leadership among the critical local government units tasked to implement policies, the public saw nothing comforting.
Distraught and fearful, the public saw a president spend witching hours ranting and raving about everything political and personal, from attacking critics to graphically discussing nocturnal bodily functions.
Where was credibility when authorities brazenly threaten quarantine violators with imprisonment while entitled lawmakers, enforcers, and cabinet men openly violated the same rules they inflict on us?
Where was credibility when authorities impose such inane measures as a plastic shield among masked and helmeted motorcycle riders, or protective equipment whose foremost purpose was to earn billions for well-connected peddlers?
Where is credibility when we continue to purchase the least efficacious albeit one of the most expensive vaccines from the same hegemon that exported COVID-19 to our shores through an army of undocumented gambling operators consistent with our pivot from western democracies to authoritarian regimes?
The most recent is the denial of critical health services due to the fiduciary mismanagement of a health fund that spells the difference between life and death for a huge sector financially incapacitated by the pandemic.
About as critical as credibility was competence. The essential anti-COVID-19 toolkit must have quarantines, contact-tracing, mass testing, vaccination, and a responsive healthcare system. Our cabal of incompetents failed in each of these. The unreliable daily data provide the empirical proof of sluggish, if not inexistent response times that condemn us months behind the curve.
The impact of COVID-19 is complex and multidimensional. Nothing is in real time. Only an idiot would reduce the measures of either success or failure to a single statistic like the number of new infections daily. And yet policies are based on that metric.
Mathematically, lockdowns should significantly reduce the infection rate within two cycles of COVID-19’s 14-days gestation period. Thus, a temporary four-week lockdown provides a breather for hospitals to decongest, contact-tracing and testing to ramp up and vaccinations, and protective equipment to roll out. The real time differences should theoretically level out where each of these tools have their own lag times.
Unfortunately, focused on police powers, government employs mainly crude, unthinking, iron-fisted force to address a health crisis significantly aggravated by influential Ferengi and peddlers whose carpetbags carry from snake oil to over-priced masks and shields, to deworming meds and electronic ionizing amulets.
Déjà vu. Welcome to our third year in Einstein’s funny farm.
(Dean dela Paz is a former investment banker and a managing director of a New Jersey-based power company operating in the Philippines. He is the chairman of the board of a renewable energy company and is a retired Business Policy, Finance and Mathematics professor.)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.