Ronnie Ong

Localized granular lockdowns questioned

September 7, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 312 views

A PARTY-LIST congressman has questioned the logic behind the proposal to implement localized granular lockdowns to mitigate the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and its variants as he noted that this would only make life even harder for a lot of families who can barely find ways to earn a living.

For as long as the government does not have widespread and effective testing and contact tracing system, Ang Probinsyano Rep. Ronnie Ong insisted that no amount of lockdowns can minimize the spread of the virus.

“Even at the start of this pandemic, this was already our problem but the COVID-19 Task Force still has not come up with an effective testing and contact tracing system. Parang wala tayong natutunan after two years into this pandemic. Laging lockdown pa rin ang solution ng gobyerno,” said Ong.

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte welcomed the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to place the national Capital region (NCR) under general community quarantine from September 8 to 30.

“Such a downgrade of mobility restrictions to the more relaxed GCQ is certainly welcome because with the coronavirus not likely to go away soon enough–as the World Health Organization (WHO) itself has assessed–the best way for us to deal with the pandemic is through risk management and not risk avoidance,” Villafuerte said.

“A further opening of the economy is the only way to accelerate recovery from the pandemic and avoid long-term or permanent economic scarring. We will not be able to stimulate greater economic activity unless we are able to restore business and consumer confidence, especially because household consumption accounts for 70% of our economy. However, we need to scale up our testing and contact-tracing activities to help slow the spread of the more transmissible variants even as we relax mobility curbs and continue to observe health and safety protocols such as the use of face masks, face shields and physical distancing,” Villafuerte added.

Despite the creation of the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), Ong lamented that the government still has not come up with a single nationwide contact tracing system and a national database for fully vaccinated individuals.

Ong stressed that the granular lockdown does not make any sense because it would lock down people who are not positive and deny them the opportunity to earn a living.

He added it is also ridiculous that APORS (Authorized Persons Outside Residence) are locked out of their homes if their communities are placed under granular lockdown.

“Can the government feed and sustain the families who will not go to work? Definitely not!” Ong pointed out.

“And what is the sense of APORS being not allowed to return to their homes during these granular lockdowns? Saan matutulog ang mga iyon? Bibigyan ba sila ng pabahay? Our businesses are already suffering too much so we should not expect them to shoulder the lodging of their employees,” he added.

Instead of resorting to short-term and temporary solutions to mitigate the spread of the virus, Ong said President Duterte should give an ultimatum to the DICT to come up with a reliable contact tracing system and vaccination database.

“In other countries, people who come in contact with someone who was tested positive are immediately traced and isolated because they have a working contact tracing app. Here in the Philippines, it is different apps for every city or every establishment and the data that are collected are not even stored and processed in a centralized manner so that the government can do a contact trace. Andyan lang yung information pero it is not being processed right away. In short, kalokohan lang itong contact tracing natin,” Ong said.

And while the government has spent so much on face shields and face masks, it has not invested on testing which remains very expensive.

Ong said that if there is an efficient contact tracing system and accessible testing, the government can immediately isolate and require simple home quarantines for mild and asymptomatic patients even before they could re-infect other people.

If and when the government has improved its contact tracing and testing system, Ong said it can already open the economy especially for those who are fully vaccinated.