Press Release
April 23, 2020

Dispatch from Crame No. 776:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima on the Available Options after April 30; Intensified Mass Testing is the Key

Total lockdown, extended ECQ, or modified ECQ? These are the choices or scenarios after April 30.

Without yet a cure for the virus, total lifting of ECQ is definitely out of the question. A non-option.

Total lockdown, wide-scale, while theoretically an option, is unacceptable. A more hungry and angry populace is a veritable social volcano. Malinaw naman na hindi kaya ng gobyerno na pakainin ang lahat na dapat pakainin. Kung ngayon ngang nasa ECQ tayo, ang dami nang mga kakulangan at kapalpakan sa pagbigay ng cash aid sa ilalim ng Social Amelioration Program, ano pa kaya kung total lockdown tayo?

Pwede siguro ang total lockdown on a strictly case-to-case basis, barangay or district level and for a very limited duration, under clear guidelines with sufficient provisions for sustenance of the affected community.

That leaves us with two choices-continue with the present ECQ or attempt a calibrated lifting of the ECQ after April 30, especially in places outside of NCR that are registering minimal levels of COVID infection. However, we can only make the right choice between the two based on reliable and complete data.

The DOH data is incomplete. It only records the death of those tested positive for COVID-19. It is silent on the tens or hundreds dying in hospitals or in their homes who were not tested for the virus, and therefore are not even included in any government documentation as deaths most probably arising from COVID-19 infection. We are not even performing post-mortem tests as a policy.

On the other hand, the data on COVID-19 positives is less indicative of the total infection in the country than of the daily capability of RITM to process COVID-19 tests. It is merely the daily average of tests processed by RITM and other COVID-19 testing centers nationwide, rather than a measurement of how widespread the virus infection in the entire country actually is.

Anyone who relies on DOH's data on the infected, the dead, and the recovered to conclude that we are flattening the curve are not only raising false hopes, they are endangering the public as well. We are not flattening the curve because there is no hard data available on which we can base this conclusion, hard data that can only be available through mass testing.

We should test, test, test, like what all successful advanced country models such as Germany and South Korea have done. Only after mass testing can we really know if we are flattening the curve, and if our healthcare system is over the worst and reached the peak of demand for hospital beds as a result of the pandemic. It is only then can we say if the ECQ actually worked, and that we are flattening the curve.

Let us not fall into the trap of Duterte's false choices between a ruined economy and a pandemic ravaging our people. He is the singular reason why we have been brought to this situation in the first place.

False or faulty and incomplete data cannot be the basis for policymaking. We have a choice to use the strategic tool of mass testing to map out the movement of this virus and the impact of the ECQ on this movement, and then make our plans and choices from there. It is only then can we choose a thoroughly assessed and well-planned calibrated lifting of the ECQ, an option I personally espouse, as an intelligent, responsible, and life-saving and economy-saving policy. As always, our call should be an intensified MASS TESTING NOW!

(Access the handwritten copy of Dispatch from Crame No. 776, here:


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