By Antonio S. Lopez

The nation’s first lockdown in memory, or the Enhanced Community Quarantine, should have ended April 30, 2020. The President, however, extended it by at least two more weeks, to May 15.

The 45-day ECQ did not significantly impact.  There has been no dramatic reduction in new cases.  We are back at 200+ new cases (often almost 300) a day. We hit as low as 13-15 new cases a day after lockdown, on March 18 and March 20.

Deaths daily from COVID-19 are still in double digits—24 on May 2, 11 on May 1 from 10 on April 30.

Total deaths, as of May 4, were 623, up 4,350% from just 14 deaths on March 17, the first day of lockdown.

Deaths should be in the single digits by now.  It is not.

We hit single digit deaths on April 26—7, and April 21 and 22, both 9. The mountain has not plateaued at all. There is no flattening of the curve. On March 16 before lockdown, total cases were only 142. Today, we are hitting 10,000,  seven times the volume we had a day before lockdown.

Almost 300 new cases per day

Before lockdown, cases were increasing by an average of 23 per day for five days. The average increase in cases per day from April 29 to May 3, five days, was 253, an 11-fold increase.   On May 3, new cases reached 295, the second highest increase in a month, after the 414 on April 6, 2020.

Total Deaths on May 4, 623, up by 16; May 3, 607; May 2, 603; May 1, 579; April 30, 568; April 29, 558; and April 28, 530.  COVID-19 just keeps on surging.

The consistently rising volume of cases is not bending the curve. Of course we came from a high of 538 new cases on March 31, but that is an aberration and probably the result of delayed reporting.

The first lockdown, from March 17 to April 30, has been a failure, thanks to the colossal incompetence of the Department of Health under Francisco Duque.

Without substantial improvement, in terms of sharp reductions, both in number of new cases per day and deaths daily, the outlook is dim for early normalcy to descent on this benighted country. Filipinos face the very real possibility of repeated lockdowns, under different names, but lockdowns just the same. But more lockdowns after May 15 will be like beating a dead horse, utterly useless. Unless the DOH reforms itself.

Duque is managing to do singlehandedly what the rest of the cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte combined cannot do—destroy the chief executive’s image and record as the best president this country ever had, a leader with keen political instincts and awesome political will.

Duque has managed to make Duterte appear incompetent, unable to summon the best of his innate management talent and presidential gravitas, to solve and lick the gravest crisis ever to hit the archipelago in the last 100 years.

The Health secretary has also managed to make Duterte look like completely lacking in empathy and deep feeling for the unmitigated suffering of his people.

Despite Duque’s massive failure on the job, the President has kept his faith in him and thwarted moves by majority of senators, both from the administration and the opposition, to seek the Health chief’s ouster. Duque has seen better days.

As I keep saying, there are four Ts to cope with the coronavirus: Testing, Tracing contacts or those possibly infected by COVID-19 patients; Treatment, and Trust.

The Department of Health cannot get a passing grade for all four Ts.

To do an honest-to-goodness testing, the Philippines must scale up testing to the level of 10,000 tests a day.

Wuhan, the epicenter of the original COVID-19 outbreak, has a population of 11 million, one-fifth of the population of Luzon. Yet, they conducted 10,000 tests daily.

The Philippines, after 50 days of lockdown, conducted 80,000 tests – the equivalent of eight days. Compare that with more than four million tests done by the United States, a country only three times the population of the Philippines. So by US standards, Duque should have done 1.3 million tests by now, or more than 100,000 tests per day.

Wuhan also deployed 1,800 contact tracing teams; each team had five members. These teams traced tens of thousands of people every day. They did nothing but trace the people who might have been in contact with the patient infected with COVID-19. These people included relatives, friends, colleagues, anyone who might have been within six feet of the infected.

The Chinese record is 99 to 100% of contacts were traced. Most of those contacted had to be tested. And 1 to 5% of the tested contacts were found positive for COVID-19.

Treatment refers to Manila having at least 100,000 new hospital beds. This is to treat the COVID-19 patients and to quarantine suspects whose COVID-19 is not yet confirmed. So far, there are claimed to be over 12,000 new hospital beds.

We also need easily 300,000 additional medical personnel – doctors, nurses, assistants, and cleaning crews. We don’t have them.  And then Trust – do you trust the DOH under Secretary Duque to bring us to the plateau, with curve bended or flattened so we can return to normalcy?

Sadly, DoH has come back at critics who are seniors, by seeking their permanent lockdown after ECQ. Seniors have become a convenient scapegoat for failure of ECQ.

The same ECQ collapsed the economy, rendered jobless 25 million people, and triggered unprecedented hunger, poverty, misery, debt levels, and police abuses unseen even during the worst of Marcos’ martial law—shanties, condos and private residences being raided their residents and occupants maltreated like slaves and animals; helpless pedestrians subjected to verbal abuse, mauling, and plain murder at checkpoints; people and motorists unable to walk or drive a few hundred meters without being accosted, challenged or checked by pompous bastards.

What is happening to our country?