The Philippines Battles with the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Ethnic Groups Philippines

5 May 2020

people buying medicineManila – The COVID-19 pandemic has come not long after the dreaded eruption of Taal Volcano in Tagaytay, located 40 miles south of Manila. As of this writing, the Philippines has recorded 10,004 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a virus that originated in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province. Almost two months after President Rodrigo Duterte announced a lockdown in the country, some areas were placed under looser general community quarantine (GCQ) starting May 1 while the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will continue in Metro Manila and other high-risk areas until May 15.

The risk of contracting the disease caused by a novel coronavirus was growing rapidly when the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) imposed the lockdown on March 15 in the National Capital Region (NCR), where most cases are recorded. A heavily congested city of almost 13 million people, Metro Manila accounts for the highest number of confirmed cases. The lockdown or ECQ has halted work, schools, and transportations as well as all social and religious activities in the country. A stringent social distancing or physical distancing policy is enforced to limit contact with infected people and prevent the spread of the virus.

The Philippines ranks second in Southeast Asia in terms of COVID-19 fatalities, with 637 deaths of which 66% are males aged between 60 and 70 years old. Of all the cities in the National Capital Region (NCR), the highly urbanized and populous Quezon City has the highest number of confirmed cases according to the Department of Health (DOH), with 1,435 infections, 114 deaths, and 259 recoveries.

With the Philippines having the highest jail occupancy rate in the world, Filipino prisoners were not spared from the pandemic. As of this writing, two jails in Cebu are the worst hit by outbreaks so far where a total of 348 infections among more than 8,000 inmates is recorded.

Although the numbers have been steadily increasing, 24 out of 81 provinces in the Philippines have remained COVID-free. The CARAGA Region in Mindanao tops the list with 4 provinces still spared from the virus since it was first detected on 30 January 2020. Other regions include the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon (3), Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (2), Eastern Visayas region (3), Bicol Region (2), Cagayan Valley region (2), Zamboanga Peninsula region in Mindanao (2), Davao Region (1), Central Luzon region (1), Central Visayas region (1), Soccsksargen region (1), and the island province of Masbate.

Filipinos’ Bayanihan Spirit During COVID-19

It is truly heartwarming to see many Filipinos, despite their limited movement and resources, have found ways to help other Filipinos in battling the pandemic. Individuals and groups have expressed empathy and gratitude to various affected sectors, especially among healthcare workers who are the most exposed to the virus. According to the DOH, more than 1,000 healthcare workers have been infected with the pathogen. This prompted the locals to donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them as they fight every day to save lives.

The happy disposition and cheerfulness of Filipinos never fail to manifest even in these trying times. A group of Ilonggo designers from Iloilo created PPEs patterned after well-loved movie and TV characters, such as Teletubbies, Power Rangers, Kung Fu Panda, and Star Wars. The reason for this was simply to cheer up and brighten the mood in hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients while simultaneously providing essential equipment needed by the medical healthcare workers who are running low on supplies.

Donations of food and other basic necessities from various companies and individuals are also distributed to families whose livelihoods have been affected by the ECQ. Some actors in the local entertainment industry have likewise organized fundraisers to help frontliners who are unable to go home to their families. The bayanihan spirit of Filipinos is indeed very much apparent as people from all walks of life come together to reach out whenever possible.