FIRING LINE: IATF better step up

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

As I had feared last week in this corner, a spike in daily COVID-19 cases nationwide was seen this past week. And surges in the provinces, although limited to localities, contributed a lot to the rising figures.

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Kudos to the local governments of Iloilo City, Baguio City, Cebu province, General Santos City, and Davao City for being vigilant and initiating stricter measures to arrest the surges immediately and very much ahead of the decision-making process of the national government task force.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, for example, pressed for the need to revert Davao City to MECQ status as early as May 31 when critical care capacity at COVID-19 facilities was falling. In spite of her inherent closeness to Malacanang, it took the IATF five days to arrive at the decision.

An equally iron lady in Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia bypassed the IATF by enforcing upon-arrival testing for inbound passengers at the airport, a move she saw fit to add a layer of protection for the city from new COVID-19 variants.

These two examples reflect a lack of confidence in the IATF to act on alarming COVID-19 developments in the regions – with the right response for the right place at the right time.

There is a lot of good in the IATF’s review process being thorough and tedious before coming up with the next quarantine status for NCR Plus – the epicenter of the pandemic in the country. But the IATF should not pretend it can act promptly on pandemic alerts in towns, cities, and provinces – where experts see the next big battleground against COVID-19 if authorities fail to respond in a timely fashion.

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Quezon City Councilor Franz Pumaren will be remembered more badly than fondly for his “ayuda” or assistance distribution to residents of Barangay Matandang Balara, which became a super-spreader event.

Even the barangay chairman, Allan Franza, is not happy with how things turned out, having to lockdown six areas and contend with 73 new infections because of the gift-giving stunt.

But Mayor Joy Belmonte, what about the super-spreader event that happened last May 29 when hundreds of residents from Districts 1, 2, and 3 were called to receive the second tranche of the social amelioration program (SAP) at the City Treasurer’s Office?

The social distancing protocol was not enforced in that mad rush, yet no one is being tested. Lucky break, I guess.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at