The takeaway from Saturday’s press conference at City Hall is that the COVID-19 surge could no longer be managed by the city government by its own and it is now in the hands of every citizen to battle the virus.

A stark manifestation of this reality is the decision announced by Dr. Dean Palanca that “suspect cases”, or individuals who tested positive in antigen tests, will be sent home for self-isolation even if they have not completed the required 14-day quarantine. This, he said, is simply because the quarantine facilities are already full and the city government is sadly no longer in a position to expand these facilities due to a lack of trained manpower.

This alone is a decision that can quickly turn our current situation from bad to worse, considering that a high percentage of suspect cases had turned out to be confirmed cases when subjected to confirmatory RT-PCR testing.

To avoid suspect cases from infecting family members and the larger community, Dr. Palanca said only asymptomatic individuals with a spare room with its own toilet & bath will be sent home. It was evident that health and city authorities don’t even know at this point how many of those suspect cases have such capacity for self-isolation.

It is desperate times, and at least the city government is frank enough to admit this so that the public will understand the necessity of self-discipline. Puerto Princesa City’s population is pretty much on its own and there is little government can do.

It is not too much however to ask our leaders to do better. There is certainly a lot of preventive measures that can be done simply by proper and timely data gathering and analysis, planning using these data, and better coordination and communication among those involved in handling this pandemic. Yes, we are asking for efficiency in the bureaucracy.

If only the response measures being followed by authorities are clearly laid out, everybody can really be on the same page including the media whom the city mayor had asked to help in putting this message across to the public. But outside of a handful of individuals and leaders, everyone else can only speculate whether resources are being put to good use or other management options are being tried out.

It is ironic that City Hall used the analogy of the “light at the end of the tunnel” to raise hopes that if we all can make it through this surge, the vaccines will soon arrive in time to save everyone. For indeed, this crisis may very well have begun with the lighting of the tunnel. One simple misstep. One bad decision. We can only hope that the handling of this present crisis will not make a bigger crisis.

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