Total Lockdown

Update: President Rodrigo Duterte enhanced the community quarantine into a total lockdown, fighting COVID-19 with more police and military visibility. It’s also the entire Luzon island now and not just Metro Manila. There is work suspension and only basic services can resume operations.

But the restricted access resulted in more gatherings of people instead of social distancing — especially in checkpoints.

The pictures above are from the first day of implementation of the absolute lockdown. This is the boundary of Marikina and Antipolo, Rizal along Marcos Highway.

Transportation access will be suspended as well. Even health professionals and frontliners will be finding it hard to go to work, unless they walk.

The community quarantine of Metro Manila may slow down COVID-19 but it may be a step too late. We are fighting an invisible enemy that will not respect any checkpoint or curfew.

It’s hard to win without knowing how powerful the opponent has become. We need to know how many Filipinos have the virus. We badly need COVID-19 testing kits.

A Tale of Two Outbreaks

South Korea is managing their outbreak by conducting rapid tests at a rate of 12,000 patients per day. They created drive-through clinics to make the tests accessible to Koreans in the same way it’s easy to buy a chocolate sundae in a Jollibee drive-thru.

The result: 240,000 tests in roughly one and a half month. They discovered around 8,000 patients and there were 72 casualties. That accounts for a mortality rate of 0.7% compared to the worldwide average of 3%.

Italy, on the other hand, chose to solve the COVID-19 problem using a national lockdown. There are more than 21,000 positive cases there as of press time — with 175 casualties.

Made by UP

We may have a better fighting chance if we have solutions similar to South Korea than Italy.

But here we are in the midst of a community quarantine.

After the President announced this move, there were two days for people to prepare. Many people left Metro Manila and headed to their provinces. If the goal was to contain the virus here in NCR, it didn’t happen that way.

A bus passenger from Metro Manila tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Lucena, Quezon. The virus traveled to a different province and the patient compromised all the other bus passengers.

Because we don’t have sufficient test kits, we don’t know how many other positive patients rode a bus and left Metro Manila.

If only we have sufficient test kits, we can identify patients even before they ride a bus to leave Metro Manila.

The test kits we are using come from the World Health Organization. There are still no registered COVID-19 testing kits here in the Philippines, according to the Food and Drug Administration. So be careful about buying kits online.

But we already have our own! Scientists from the University of the Philippines – National Institute of Health developed a COVID-19 test kit that the FDA has approved. It just needs to have emergency use listing from WHO before we can use it.

This kit can swiftly identify the coronavirus disease 2019 using samples from patients. It just needs two hours for results to be ready. Its initial price is around P1,300 compared to foreign test kits that cost P8,500.

The target is to have 1,000 tests weekly.

This is important because the Department of Health points to the lack of test kits as the reason why there is an underreporting of positive cases in the Philippines.

We need rapid testing similar to South Korea. We don’t know if we are interacting with a positive case or if we are carriers already. Instead of overthinking and giving way to panic, we simply should submit to a COVID-19 test.

We have the technology to make these tests accessible to all.


We may have a bitter fighting chance if we have solutions similar to Italy than South Korea.

But here we are in the midst of a community quarantine.

On March 15, 2020, the public awaited how the community quarantine will start. Will the police block vehicles from crossing the boundaries of Metro Manila? Can we call it a lockdown?

It didn’t happen that way. Instead of a lockdown, the Philippine National Police said it was a police visibility operations. There were checkpoints but the movement continued.

There were traffic disruptions but it was because policemen were looking for proof of employment from people. If you had no business to leave or enter Metro Manila, you were not going anywhere.

But again, since there are no sufficient test kits, the authorities manning the checkpoints do not have a definite way of knowing whether they are interacting with a positive case.

The virus can still move freely around these checkpoints and our armed forces are at its mercy.  They may be wielding high-powered rifles and firearms but this is an enemy their bullets can’t take down. In the line of duty, they are also compromising their own health and that of their families as well.

The virus can still move freely around these checkpoints and we are all at its mercy. At this point, our best defense is to practice hygiene and to strengthen our immune system.

But to bring the battle to this invisible enemy,  we need accessible COVID-19 tests to reveal its invisibility cloak and to give us a fighting chance.

[Entry 292, The SubSelfie Blog]

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