QUALIFY that headline: Five contiguous cities — Quezon City, Manila, Makati, Taguig and Caloocan — make up the epicenter of the pandemic now, accounting for a fourth of the cases, with the rest thinly spread out across the rest of the country.
The data and just a bit of analysis should point to what is the rational approach to stopping the accelerating momentum of Covid-19 cases in our country: lockdown in the strictest manner these five cities for at least two weeks. After all, even Melbourne in Australia has adopted such strict measures even with just 13,000 cases. We can even risk totally lifting business restrictions elsewhere, to make up for the stoppage in these five cities.
The figures speak for themselves. For the July 1 to August 5 period, 71 percent of the 3,375 new cases were in the National Capital Region (NCR).
The worst hit has been Quezon City. Occupancy rates in hospitals for Covid-19 cases in Quezon City bolster this thesis. Nationwide, this is just 53 percent. That for QC is way past the 70 percent danger level set by the health department: 89 percent for ICU beds, 80 percent for isolation and 87 percent for ward beds. When that group of doctors moaned that they were overwhelmed by the surge of Covid-19 cases, they were most likely in Quezon City hospitals.
Quezon City has become the epicenter of the epicenter for several reasons.
First, it is the city with the biggest concentrations of slum areas inhabited by squatters, tolerated for so long by the Belmontes that have ruled what is the biggest urban area in the country for two decades.
What should worry us is that Quezon City could be a petri dish and distribution center for Covid-19: It is primarily a residential city, therefore its residents work in adjacent cities, mainly Manila, Makati, and Taguig cities (i.e., in the Bonifacio Global City area.)
Second, Quezon City has essentially been opened up since last month, as it had become the site of the continuous rallies by staff and stars of ABS-CBN, as well as by communist activists supporting it or demonstrating against the Anti-Terror Law and President Duterte’s July 27 State of the Nation Address. Do you think those activists went to those rallies in private cars?
And third, the current mayor Josefina “Joy” Belmonte has proven to be ineffectual in containing the pandemic in her city, even exacerbating it by allowing those ABS-CBN Corp. and communist rallies there.
I may be unfairly singling out Quezon City as cases in the adjacent City of Manila as of August 1 totaled 5,644 compared to the former’s 7,844. (After Quezon City and Manila, the next biggest number of cases is a far third, with only 2,500 cases.) But Quezon City is four times bigger in area than Manila, and therefore more difficult to cover for an intensive campaign to contain the disease.
While the worsening of Covid-19 is certainly depressing, we can find some comfort in two things.
First, the number of those killed by the disease has been kept down, with the deaths totaling 2,123. That’s 19 per million of our population, quite low compared to those of the United States, Brazil, France and Italy, which are more at 488, 458, 454 and 587, respectively. It is indeed hard to believe that the most advanced and richest nation on earth which had boasted of the most developed institutions to fight epidemics, the US, has had 160,000 of its people killed by the pandemic in just five months.
Second, there are countries which have beat the pandemic. China had over 80,000 cases a few months back. Now it has only 837 cases. Italy had 249,000 cases, now it has only 12,646. South Korea managed to stop the spread of Covid-19 at 15,000 and had beat it back to just 700 active cases today.
We can do it. Of course.