COVID-19 Op-ed

Dealing with a Present-Day Pandemic Psycho-social impacts of COVID-19 on the Filipino people

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Lorena L. Sabino,
PhD
Assistant ProfessorDepartment of
Social Faculty and Forest Governance
College of Forestry
and Natural Resources
University of the Philippines Los
Baňos

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
(SARS-COV-2) is an invisible enemy and a great equalizer that has affected
everyone regardless of gender or age, social status and economic capacity.
This present day pandemic has placed a great burden on the public health
system and the economy of many countries, including the Philippines.The
country’s first case of novel coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) infection of a
Chinese tourist was publicly announced on 30 January 2020. The announcement
fueled anxiety as a possible spread of the virus had suddenly hit home.
Report of the first local transmission in 7 March 2020 even heightened fear
and worries throughout the country. Such case compelled the government to
enact measures to contain and prevent further transmissions. Now, the whole
country is in a state of public health emergency. Under such condition,
several measures were instituted to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases.
These include restricted public movement, ban on operation of public
transport, establishment of community check points, suspension of work and
classes, cancellation of both local and foreign travels, prohibition of mass
gatherings and closure of non-essential shops/businesses.  The Filipino
people, particularly informal workers and daily wage earners, were unprepared
for this quarantine.COVID-19 is draining not only the country’s resources but
also affecting people’s psycho-social health. Frustrations and anxieties are
being felt by many Filipinos, mainly due to the underwhelming efforts by the
government to beat this health crisis. Had the government carried out
preventive policies much earlier, virus transmissions and deaths, which now
had reached 1,546 cases with 78 casualties, could have been prevented.Knowing
that COVID-19 is highly contagious and that asymptomatic infection exists,
raises fear and anxiety among the people. More so, with the possibility that
the disease may last longer than expected given the limited resources to
treat it. Apprehensions arise when people think of not being given the needed
treatment due to limited health care facilities and workers. The lack of
quarantine areas and hospitals for COVID-19 patients had forced persons under
monitoring (PUM) and persons under investigation (PUI) to practice
self-medication and self-quarantine. This places members of their families,
the medical workers and people they come in contact with at high risk of
being infected.Treating COVID-19 patients had also caused anxiety amongst
medical frontliners, who also have to confront high risks of infection and
depleting stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE). In fact, many of
them are already infected and are under quarantine. Unfortunately, nine had
already succumbed to the disease.Unavailability of food and other basic
necessities is normalising, gravely affecting daily wage earners and their
families. Suspension of public transport and closing of “non-essential”
businesses have made it more difficult for them to fend for their needs. The
sudden declaration of a state of public health emergency gave every Filipino
very little time to prepare.Mitigating measures should ensure availability,
accessibility and affordability of basic goods and other services to
alleviate the public from fear and anxiety. Moreover, provision of support
should not be politicized and equitable distribution of medical services must
be exercised. The Philippine government’s strict and military-based approach
has proven to not only be underwhelming, but it could also potentially enable
gross violations of rights and freedoms. Transparent, accountable, and
rights-based solutions, together with public compliance and cooperation,
should be implemented immediately in order to effectively beat
COVID-19.ReferencesDepartment of Health
(DOH). https://www.doh.gov.ph/2019-nCoV.Community
Quarantine over the Entire Luzon and Further Guidelines for the Management of
the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Sitution. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/downloads/2020/03mar/20200316-MEMORANDUM-FROM-ES-RRD.pdfEpidemiology
Bureau, Department of Health (DOH), Philippines. Updates of Novel Coronavirus
Disease (Covid-19). https://www.doh.gov.ph/2019-nCovProclamation
922. Declaring a State Public Health Emergency throughout the Philippines.
https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/downloads/2020/02feb/20200308-PROC-922-RRD-1.pdfWorld
Health Organization (WHO). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Philippines.
https://www.who.int/philippines/emergencies/covid-19-in-the-philippines

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