MANILA: Filipinos on Saturday expressed frustration over the government’s handling of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as restrictions were extended in Metro Manila until Sept.7, a day after a record-breaking single-day tally of cases.
There was an all-time high of 19,441 infections on Saturday, surging past its second-highest single-day count of 17,231 cases on Aug. 20.
At least 1,935,700 cases and over 33,000 deaths have been recorded since the start of the pandemic, according to the Department of Health.
The DoH said over 1,760,013 patients have recovered from the disease, reflecting a 90.9 percent recovery rate.
On Saturday, Malacañang said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases had decided to retain the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status of the capital region and its neighboring provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna until Sept. 7.
Earlier this month, President Rodrigo Duterte had approved the return of tighter curbs, or enhanced community quarantine, from Aug. 6 to 20 in Metro Manila, a metropolis of 16 cities and home to more than 13 million people, due to the delta variant.
From Aug. 21, however, the government decided to ease the lockdown to spur economic activity in the country by lowering the status to MECQ until the end of the month, before extending it until Sept. 7.
The government’s decision faced intense criticism on Saturday, with many saying that extended “lockdowns will never address the root cause of the problem.”
“This administration fails in relation to the ever-growing health menace confronting us all. Its strategy on the imposition of lockdowns has proven time and again futile,” Pia Fajardo, a government employee, told Arab News.
She questioned why despite the strict implementation of health protocols, COVID-19 cases continued to increase across the Philippines.
“Why? Because this government lacks coordination with other agencies and reacts solely on how they see things, which I think has no scientific evidence. It’s all short-term planning,” Fajardo said.
“Our battle against COVID-19 is real. And since we, unfortunately, have a leader who refuses to see the sad realities of this disease, we will never win the war. We will continue to plunge in this lame cycle of surge-lockdown-surge,” she added.
Leslie Miranda, an investor, is eager to get back to normal life and shared Fajardo’s concerns.
“Extending the lockdown is a futile attempt to contain something that cannot be contained. At best, it will only bring about a very brief respite for our healthcare system to catch up. But after lifting it, the number of cases goes up again,” Miranda said.
He explained that the COVID-19 virus, similar to all other viruses, “mutates all the time, and there will never be a 100 percent cure.”
“Considering that the vast majority of Filipinos live hand to mouth, lockdowns deprive them of what little livelihood they have,” Miranda said, adding that the government’s financial aid is insufficient.
Instead, he urged the government to “be innovative and pragmatic” in its approach to the outbreak.
“We have been in a lockdown for more than 1.5 years already. And yet, we are no better off, even worse, than the start. Meanwhile, other countries are already recovering,” he said.
However, the Health Ministry has repeatedly urged people to get vaccinated and flatten the curve in the Philippines, which has one of the highest COVID-19 case counts in Asia.
Miranda blamed the government’s “slow response” for a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“Let the results speak for themselves. For a long time, the government has been reactive rather than proactive. It is also very slow,” Miranda said.
He added that while it is good that more people are being inoculated against the disease, the process “needs to be faster.”
Last week, the Philippines approved the emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik Light COVID-19 vaccine. It has fully vaccinated only 17.26 million people out of its 110 million population.
Jose Marie Eslopor, a youth leader from Iloilo province, said that while “it has been 534 days since the Philippines went into a lockdown, 1.9 million Filipinos are infected with COVID-19,” making him “more anxious about my safety and security.”
“I’m confused whether to prioritize my job to put food on our table or to be safe and stay inside. Personally, I rate the government efforts as 2 out of 10,” he told Arab News.
“Imagine living in a pandemic lockdown for nearly two years but still we are not sure what protocols to implement,” he added.