The Philippines this week topped the region on the total number of coronavirus cases, surpassing Malaysia and picking up on a trend it established since going on lockdown over two weeks ago. The trend is disturbing, particularly since we haven’t really done massive testing yet. It suggests that the spread may even be bigger.

Even with testing limited mainly to priority cases among the so-called patients under investigation (PUI), we have already recorded 4,500 incidences of COVID-19 positive cases nationwide. Close to 250 persons have died, also the highest in the region in terms of the percentage of those afflicted with the disease.

Much as we would like to share the view that the country is winning the war against COVID-19, the government’s own data tends to douse such enthusiasm.

We can only hope and pray that in Palawan, the reality is not far from what seems at the outset. We have a diminishing number of PUIs and persons under monitoring (PUMs) and a near-zero incidence of infection. Our single COVID-19 positive case remains that of the Australian tourist discovered at the outset of the lockdown.

While it is such, the fact remains that we still don’t know much. Consider that of the province’s current totals of PUIs hovering at around 80 and PUM counting at over 2,000 on its peak, only less than 40 persons have been tested and found to be negative.

The manner the Department of Health has been handling the campaign against COVID-19 is such that the weight of the burden now lies on the shoulder of local communities confined to their respective quarantine boundaries. This is because there is no overarching broad-stroke campaign in place such as mass testing that is crucial to the effective management of localized COVID cases.

Even the Department of Health’s reckoning of the problem has now become limited and narrow. It issued this week a new guideline for reporting that left out contact tracing outcomes to the local government units. The DoH henceforth will now only count those who are showing symptoms of the disease, categorizing them into two – probable cases and suspect cases. The rest of the herd who are exposed by sheer proximity to the “probables” and the “suspects” are on their own to try and keep themselves uninfected, with quarantine and social distancing as their only means.

It is hard to predict what the world will be like in two more weeks when the nationwide lockdown is supposed to have ended. Still, the only sensible course of action is to plan for the worse and hope for the best.

The most each and everyone can do is to understand and embrace this recourse and learn to really stand as one, hopefully, therefore, to heal as one.