IATF must also address pernicious work of those sowing pandemic panic – The Manila Times


WHEN the nation completes today as scheduled the enhanced and general community quarantine schemes imposed on various parts of the archipelago, our country and people will have experienced 107 days of continuous lockdown/quarantine in the desperate effort to control the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

The past three months have indisputably been an exacting time of trial and tribulation for both the citizenry and the government. Our people have endured draconian restrictions and deprivations in their lives. The government, led by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), has had only dubious success in stopping the spread of the virus and shoring up the capabilities of our health care system for testing and treatment.

Covid-19 clearly is still alive and well in our land. More of our people will be infected because there is still no vaccine against it and no immunity.

The economy has been devastated as much by the self-inflicted lockdown as by the ravages of the disease. The economy is set to contract by 3.4 percent this year and it must now battle the agony of recession. Overseas employment, business process outsourcing and tourism — three of our biggest income earners have been among the sectors most adversely hit. Once dynamic, the hospitality and restaurant industry has been flattened by restrictions. Many businesses have had to close down. At least 3 million of our workers have already lost their jobs.

Now, the government needs to make a decision and plan what it will do in the continuing struggle against the pandemic because, clearly, the emergency is not over and there is still a lot of work to do.

It makes sense to give the highest priority now to economic recovery because success in every national undertaking, including public health, will depend on the vitality and productivity of the economy.

In planning our way forward, we must also guard against those among us whose chief interest lies perversely in driving the nation into rash and hysterical actions in the pandemic by scaring and alarming our people.

In this regard, we want to call attention to the repeated efforts by a group of University of the Philippines (UP) professors and researchers to issue escalating dark predictions about the pandemic in our midst.

Earlier in the month, the group showed their hand when they heavily publicized their prediction that the country would be facing 40,000 Covid infections by today, June 30.
Now, they have upped their forecast with a new prediction that Covid-19 cases in the country could reach 60,000 by July 31.

The group claims to be composed of experts, yet not one of them is evidently a medical expert or scientist who has done work on infectious diseases or public health policy
Their forecast is gross. The death toll, they claim, may climb to 1,300 by July 31.

The group is composed of UP mathematics professor Dr. Guido David, UP political science assistant professor Ranjit Singh Rye, Ma. Patricia Agbulos of OCTA Research, and biology professor Rev. Fr. Nicanor Austriaco of the Providence College and the University of Santo Tomas.

Nothing in what they say is in the least amusing because they plainly do not know what they are talking about. At their shallowest, we can say that they are merely seeking publicity. But they could also pose something more sinister, in that their objective could be to create public panic and hysteria in order to make fighting the virus more difficult for the government.

We ask, therefore, what the IATF-IED and the government proposes to do about this deliberate misinformation campaign in our public life. Will these experts at least be asked to produce their credentials? Should the State be paying salaries to people who specialize in this kind of mayhem?

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