Dr. David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Special Envoy on Covid-19, recently questioned not only the legitimacy but the efficiency of lockdowns and quarantines as solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Nabarro, who spoke to The Spectator, said, “’We really do appeal to all world leaders: stop using lockdown as your primary control method”.

He also said, “The only time we believe a lockdown in justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources; protect your health workers who are exhausted. But by and large, we’d rather not do it […] “Lockdowns have just one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.”

Dr. Nabarro based his statement on an article which he wrote earlier titled “Reflections about the Middle Path,” which advocates a balance between restrictions and living a “normal” life.

The Spectator explained that lockdowns do not stop the virus from spreading. What it does is that it “freezes the virus” and allows it to wreak havoc on the populace. 

“This means test-trace-isolate-protect services everywhere, with clearly justified performance metrics,” the doctor stressed. “It is important there is enough testing capacity to pick up where the virus is, to detect spikes and manage surges. Lockdowns just freeze the virus … they do not lead to elimination.”

According to the WHO’s Covid-19 dashboard, infection figure is pegged at 37.4 million with 1.074 million deaths as of Oct. 2020. The Americas top the WHO’s infection charts at 17.9 million, followed by Southeast Asia at 7.987 million and Europe at 7.011 million.

Based on recent figures released by the Saudi Arabian health ministry, the Philippines has slightly overtaken Saudi Arabia in Covid-19 caseloads at 339,341 and 339,267, respectively.

Despite what is criticized as perhaps the longest lockdown in the region at 212 days (from March 15, 2020 to Oct. 13, 2020), The Philippines continue to suffer an average of 2,000 daily new cases.

The high average of infection in the country despite a continuing lockdown proves in many ways how Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s insistence on varying quarantine restrictions has failed in stopping the virus from spreading. 

Palace spokesperson Harry Roque in early August had announced the reimposition of quarantine when the infections breached the 100,000 mark. The “Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine” was imposed following the President’s approval. 

Should a vaccine be made available by the People’s Republic of China or elsewhere, Duterte insisted on having the vaccinations inside police stations under the supervision of doctors.

Reports have indicated that the administration is in the middle of talks with the United States, China, Russia, Taiwan and Australia for a possible vaccine against Covid-19.

As of this writing, the country is under General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

Department of Health (DOH), while silent on the matter of the continuing lockdown, stated early this month that it would champion the Universal Health Care during the Committee on Finance Senate Budget hearing on the 9th. 

According to the DOH, the organization and attached agencies and corporations submitted a 203.74B budget proposal for 2021, 27% higher than its 2020 budget.

Health Sec. Francisco Duque III stressed that “the approval of the proposed budget will set the scaffolding for the anticipated COVID-19 vaccine roll-out next year to prioritize the most vulnerable members of society.”

Since the lockdown, the country has entered into recession, with the Philippine economy shrinking to a record 16.5%, much worse than the 9.0% forecast by a Reuter’s survey.

In early June, three months after the Luzon-wide lockdown, unemployment hit 7.3 million Filipinos based on Philippine Statistics Authority figures.

If seen from the statement of Dr. Nabarro, the Philippines seems to provide a microcosm where the doctor’s theories prove true. 

“Too many restrictions damage people’s livelihoods and provoke resentment,” Dr. Nabarro said in his article. “‘Virus run wild’ will lead to lots of deaths as well as debilitating long-COVID among younger people.”

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