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COVID 19: Refections on the Philippine Response

The Department of Health responded to the spread of COVID-19 by coordination with the World Health Organization, local hospitals, and local governments, and engagement with new and traditional media. The government responded with a graduated community quarantine (initially labelled “enhanced,” and later elevated to “extreme” to quell public anxiety). Police and the military were placed on the highest alert status to maintain this quarantine. During the first seven days of strict enforcement, they acknowledged initial “issues,” but seem to have adjusted well. Contrary to expectations from critics and foreign observers, crime went down by 45 % nationwide and was 53% less in Metro Manila.

The national government seems to be taking cues from (notably young) individual mayors and private entities, who have made creative use of available resources to help in the COVID-19 crisis. Best practices “on the ground” have been nationalized. Empty motels and other buildings are repurposed as ad hoc quarantine areas or dormitories for frontline health workers. Funds were made available to distribute to people and families most affected by lockdown and quarantine measures. There was coordination among connected cities to source and move PPEs and supplies. Schemes were made to work out use of police-, military-, public-, and private transport to facilitate the movement of authorized personnel and supplies. A new law mandates a COVID-19 Special risk allowance for health workers on top of their normal hazard pay.

Effective responses seem to have come from the bottom up, from responsible local leaders and community members. I feel hopeful, despite these dire times, as the Bayanihan spirit, our sense of oneness and community, is still very much alive. In fighting this latest invisible enemy, Filipinos must continue to rely on this Bayanihan spirit and trust in the Almighty. We will pull through.

 - Yolanda S. Lira, Philippine