At some point in this crisis, a decision has to be made about keeping people at their homes to contain the pandemic and prompting the economy to recover, lest it deteriorates to a point where the solution becomes much worse than the problem. This is a burden and accountability that is imposed on the government.

An important key to this decision-making process is to take stock of Palawan’s medical capacity to manage COVID-19, as people begin to venture out of their homes and start picking up where they have left before the quarantine. There are risks, but we need to at least attain some level of confidence that our medical system can handle the downside of easing the restrictions.

Science currently tells us that until a cure is found or the population acquires herd immunity, society will need to adapt and change its ways guided by physical distancing and avoidance of physical contact. Not only does it define the parameters of a “new normal” in doing things; it more significantly sets back the quality of life that we have known before COVID-19.

There is no science behind the presumption that because we had not seen a rise in the incidence of COVID-19 during the ECQ and GCQ periods, we are already on the clear and can, therefore, resume normal lives. On the contrary, what the experience suggests is that once expanded testing is done, we are able to control the virus by doing effective response in isolating those of are infected including especially those who are asymptomatic and managing the sick.

The inadequacy of testing remains the single biggest challenge faced by Palawan. The province has so far been reeling from its lack of testing capacity and being solely dependent on the capability of the national testing laboratories for results. The selectively few samples that we’ve been sending to the RITM laboratories in Manila currently take at least a week to come back with results.

The provincial government this week stated plans to put up testing facilities for COVID-19, at least four laboratories according to Governor Jose Alvarez. These facilities will allow the province to conduct more efficient testing and there more efficient handling of the disease.

Governor Alvarez says that in addition to the testing laboratories, Capitol is putting into play a P5 billion funding portfolio to strengthen our medical capacity, including an additional 400 hospital beds.

At least one of these planned testing laboratories are in the pipeline, with the Department of Health already in the process of training and certifying a GenExpert laboratory facility at the Ospital ng Palawan.

We’ve had close to 20 deaths pending test results since the pandemic so far. While we’ve had only two cases of positive results, we are far from attaining the level of confidence to resume normal daily lives.

The policy direction outlined by the provincial government, providing the needed focus on mass testing and scaling up the local medical capacity is in line with what science is prescribing and health experts are articulating.

Acquiring mass testing capacity and strengthening the province’s medical capacity are important goals that the provincial government has set for itself. The expectations are thus raised that once we achieve these milestones, we are keeping ourselves on the right track in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic