This post will largely be about the effects of the COVID-19 virus on my country, the Philippines, including government and society’s response, largely from a personal POV. It’s actually a bit difficult to write about, but I figure it’s something I would like to be able to look back on in the future, so let’s give it a shot. The reason it’s difficult to write about is that events are unfolding and changing rapidly, and a lot of things are still unclear. On top of that, there is anxiety to contend with, and all the news can make it difficult to think. And so we write, both as a record of events and to help clear my thoughts.
I was originally going to write about the recent COVID-19 virus happenings during this week’s weeknotes, but I ended up writing so many words about it, so I decided to make a separate type of post. And its a new type of post, one that I tagged under “diaries”. The post is being published early on the 15th, but the intent is I will be updating this post as events unfold.
January the 30th: First positive case in PH
March the 9th: President declares public health emergency
March 9th-March 11th
Locally, our country had a very small number of confirmed cases coming into the last week, I think it was at around 20 or less before Sunday the 8th. And only 1 confirmed death. The president had previously addressed the country in some kind of incoherent drunken rant that didn’t say much but was easily repurposed by internet memers into some kind of spoken word poetry.
There is a shortage of face masks. People are reminded to wash their hands regularly and practice social distancing when possible. The DOH claimed we had everything under control. Eat Bulaga and Showtime have been running shows without a live studio audience. Life was still mostly normal.
But during this week, more and more cases were reported, in ever-increasing quantities. As of Saturday (the 14th) night, we were up to 111 confirmed cases and I think 8 deaths, with 40+ reported during that day alone. That fatality rate of around 7%, is way higher than the global 1-3%, which is a good indicator of how many unreported cases we probably have locally, due to the severe lack of testing.
Thursday, March the 12th: Lockdown announced
The explosive growth in cases finally made the government take drastic action; around Thursday lunchtime, rumors started circulating in online circles that the authorities were planning a lockdown of the National Capital Region. This included a leaked memo listing the recommendations that the president would have to decide on. Many details were not known, like what exactly would happen in such a lockdown. What we did know was that the lockdown would start reportedly start on Sunday, the 15th and would last for 30 days.
The markets did not take the rumors well. Shortly before closing, the Philippine Stock Exchange circuit breaker was triggered after the index had dropped more than 10% on the day. The index recovered slightly before closing at around -9.x%. It was a bloodbath.
During my late afternoon walk I decided to pass by the nearby grocery because there had already been reports of large crowds. Sure enough there were way more people than usual. I really only wanted to get Tostitos dip, but they were out of stock of that. Why were people hoarding it? Alcohol and hand sanitizer were out of stock as well, as expected. From the chatter I overheard, people were well aware of the rumored announcement later that day. My parents weren’t planning to do our weekly grocery run until Friday night, but I decided to pick up a few essentials (bread, eggs, canned goods, etc) early since I was there.
A press conference was announced for around 6-630pm. True to form, the conference only started around a couple of hours late. Most of it consisted of the president telling the people to listen to the health authorities, reading out the details of the memo (exactly the one that was leaked, leaving many questions), in his usual annoying rambling style. (To his benefit, he seemed way more lucid than his last public speech.)
The lockdown covered Metro Manila, banning domestic travel over land, sea, and air. International travel was still around. The press conference did not provide any details of how the lockdown would be enforced or any plan for increased testing or support for health care front-liners or new health care supplies. No details of how people who live outside the NCR but work there during the day would be handled. No word on support programs for people who will lose paying work because of the arrangements. The president did not acknowledge the efforts of public health care workers, but instead for some reason, decided to thank China for supposedly supporting us. (Even though the virus came from them.)
Many of my group chats are abuzz, discussing the turn of events and the lack of details, with the general consensus being: ANG LABO!
A doctor friend reports that she has been in quarantine and is awaiting results of the COVID19 test because she was in contact with possible carriers. We wish her good luck.
Some people I knew had flown out of the NCR to the provinces for some R&R and their flight back would be from Saturday night to Sunday early morning, so they would be caught by the lockdown. I jokingly said that since international flights weren’t banned, they could just fly out to Malaysia or such, then fly back in to NAIA.
I note that on this day, 16 new confirmed cases were reported, while 9 and 4 cases were reported the two days prior. This implies to me that we’re looking at 25 cases the next day.
My opinion: I general accept that the lockdown is probably necessary, but not with the implied threat of police/military action. Focus should be on improving testing and healthcare resources.
Friday, March the 13th
It’s Friday the 13th! This morning, the PSE circuit breaker triggers again, mere minutes after trade opens. The markets did not like last night’s announcements either.
Twitter tells us that the MRT officials have started applying social distancing rules, only letting a limited number of people on the trains per station. This results in very long lines outside the stations, kind of negating the social distancing anyway. I’m glad I’m no longer a regular commuter.
I recommend to my parents to do the regular grocery run earlier, and as a result I have to accompany my mom on the trip, just after lunch. Even then, the nearby grocery was packed, with maybe 200% more people than the usual peak. Sanitation items like hand sanitizer and alcohol were out of stock. Eggs were too for some reason (luckily I had already bought some the day before). Common canned goods were still on shelves, but the more popular ones were in short supply. The “panic buying” isn’t as much as we see reported in other countries where many shelves are bare. Friends who go to larger groceries like SNR report 2-hr wait times at the checkout line. Ours takes around 30 mins.
Spokespersons for different government agencies have begun issuing statements clarifying how things will actually work during the lockdown – excuse me, “community quarantine”. The air and sea restrictions are pretty clear, but the land restrictions seem impossible to implement without massive traffic. The intent is to have checkpoints at roads in and out of the metro, and to inspect passengers one by one to make sure their trips are essential. There is still no plan on how to support people who cannot work due to the lockdown.
Local churches announce suspension of mass services.
Group chats are abuzz all day with discussions such as:
- how their companies are preparing for WFH. Some of my friends work at a company with over 200 people and they had been preparing a business continuity plan during the week, but last night’s announcements have accelerated plans. They need to purchase laptops and pocket wifis for those who don’t have hardware or internet at home.
- disinfectant alternatives due to lack of supply of alcohol and hand sanitizer.
- word is a doctor at the Philippine Heart Center has been intubated because a patient lied about her travel history.
- My doctor friend happily reports that she has tested negative, but that she still has to stay quarantined for 14 days. Our healthcare system will not survive any uptick in cases which causes large swathes of our medical professionals to be taken out of play for 2 weeks at a time.
- I note the strong parallels between Trump and Duterte’s approaches: both held disastrous press conferences that resulted in markets crashing!
I tell everyone that since things are unclear, just stay home as much as possible. I am privileged enough that I can largely follow this advice, and many of my friends work in industries where WFH is viable. The ones who will be disproportionally affected are the poor - the ones who can’t afford not to work or have no way to work remotely.
The mayor of Quezon City has declared a state of calamity.
At the end of the trading day, the PSE has managed to recover a bit, closing at +1.x% up.
Only 3 new confirmed cases are reported today, defying my pattern recognition skills.
Saturday, March the 14th
It’s Pi day!
We have a small extended family lunch gathering today, mostly as a send-off to some balikbayan relatives who are flying back to the US in a couple of weeks. The gathering was originally scheduled for Sunday, but because of the announcement we rescheduled to Saturday to avoid complications. Fewer people are able to attend, and we just have takeout instead of going to a restaurant as originally planned.
In the afternoon, there is a presscon where the MMDA/PNP/some mayors are talking about a one month curfew from 8PM-5AM. The interior secretary threatens arrest for those who refuse to go home during the curfew. This causes a mix of reactions on social media and in the group chats. During the time I was still a regular commuter, by 8PM I would not have been able to get on a bus yet. The authorities are also requesting that malls close except for essential services such as supermarkets, banks and pharmacies.
Strain in the healthcare system is starting to show. Multiple reports of healthcare personnel lacking alcohol, hand sanitizer, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
Local media giant ABS-CBN announces their hit primetime dramas are going off the air starting next week, to be replaced by reruns. Finally, a villain that Ang Probinsyano is unable to defeat.
All day there are reports of massive crowds at the bus stations of people planning to leave the metro before the lockdown. The exodus is worse than Christmas or Holy Week holidays. Airline ticketing offices are also swamped with people looking for refunds and rebookings.
Early in the evening, they start rolling back the curfew announcement, saying it was just recommendations, and that the MMDA has no authority to impose a curfew, unless the LGUs pass ordinances to enable such. PCOO’s Andanar calls such reports “fake news”. (Never mind that the government people were live on TV talking about it.)
By the end of the day, 47 new confirmed cases had been reported, for a total of 111. (If my pattern recognition had held, today would have seen 36 new cases. Not too far off.) Some posts from healthcare workers suggest that some of the new cases are from the poorer Payatas and BASECO areas. An outbreak in those areas would be really bad, as the spread would be very difficult to control. And the tests are delayed by about two days - by now many people may have been infected in those areas. The DOH is yet to release details of the new cases.
Late in the evening, the NCRPO announces that instead of checkpoints, they will just implement increased police visibility at the metro exit points. Thread says they had meetings late into the night, I suspected they realized how ridiculous the original plan was.
As we near the start of the lockdown, only the LGU of Muntinlupa has confirmed a curfew, starting Monday.
It becomes increasingly clear how poor the planning and coordination for this event was, that they are just ironing out details and making plans up more or less on the fly. We had weeks where they were saying not to worry and things were under control, that time should have been spent preparing for contingencies such as this. This does not inspire confidence.
Minor annoyance: social media people who say we should just obey without question. We don’t have to obey dumbass rules!
Regardless, my intent is just to stay at home as much as possible.
Sunday, March the 15th
I heard mass online through the facebook page of the Quiapo Church.
Ayala and Robinson’s malls have announced that their Metro Manila malls will be closing indefinitely starting tomorrow. SM malls announced a similar closure except limited to a few cities and areas, Quezon City not included.
Mayor Belmonte has declared a curfew in Quezon City starting Monday.
A family friend has been suffering from a fever for a couple of days but refuses to go to the hospital for checkups. His two daughters, both doctors, are reportedly very exasperated at his stubbornness.
Apparently the US has attempted to acquire exclusive rights to a possible vaccine. Capitalism ho!
The lockdown is generally going smoothly. I don’t think anyone was questioning the need of course. The real challenge in implementation will be tomorrow when people start going to work. My earlier expectation of general chaos, confusion and traffic has been tempered by the fact that the NCRPO supposedly reduced it to just police visibility instead of hard checkpoints.
As of Sunday evening, we are at 140 cases (+29) and 12 fatalities, around 8.5% fatality rate.
Several of my friends however are quite worried about whether the police are sanitizing themselves after every check. If not, they might well become another vector for spreading the virus.
I haven’t left the house since the grocery run on Friday. I’m considering resuming my afternoon walks starting tomorrow. I mean, I’ll probably be fine right?
Monday, March the 16th: Enhanced community quarantine announced
As expected, throngs of people out in the streets trying to commute to work. So much for social distancing.
I go out for a quick medicine run (to ensure I have one month’s worth). The nearby drugstore is less crowded than the last time I passed by, although still well above expectations for the early afternoon hour.On I wrote:
This thread has an example of some of the problems with the police/military focus while guidelines/checks are few and unclear; giving them more discretion has a high likelihood of leading to abuseQuoted KabataanPL's tweet:
This is Metro Manila under AFP-PNP lockdown
Some of the people in my group chats are starting to get overwhelmed by anxiety at the mishandling of the situation. I send them the following:
I’m not saying we shouldn’t take things seriously and/or prepare for the worst, I’m saying be mindful of your mental health by exposing yourself to too much anxiety and worry. i’m sure each of us here is already doing as much as possible to avoid risk/exposure for us and our families, it’s ok to step back from all the updates every so often
Word starts to spread that the government is meeting to plan a heightened lockdown. A press conference is announced for this afternoon. It seems like they announced the presscon even before the meeting starts, which means they have a presumption that an announcement will be needed. I expect that meeting to run long, most likely it will be this early to mid evening.
From this breaking news post:
JUST IN: Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says President Duterte has ordered an enhanced community quarantine of entire Luzon.
Under enhanced community quarantine, the government says strict home quarantine will be implemented in all households, transportation will be suspended and provision for food and essential health services will be regulated.
The presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures will be heightened under enhanced community quarantine.
I kind of slept through the actual announcements. Tighter lockdown as expected. No more going to work, only essential travel. No public transpo. Outbound international travellers have 3 days to get to their flights (luckily my balikbayan relative had previously decided to panic-rebook to this Thursday, just inside the window). Luzon-wide travel ban. Food distribution etc. Looks like a lot of the implementation problems are being left to the LGUs to decide. Government asking landlords, etc to defer rents, business to advance 13th month pay if possible.
A lot of edge cases seem unhandled, mostly for poor people without cars: how do they get to groceries, hospitals? How do healthcare workers without cars get to the hospitals? Etc. Some of the people in my chat groups are very pessimistic and are worried about the implementation of food distribution and other support for the poor. If not implemented properly, could lead to social unrest. I suspect we’re going to see another major announcement within 1-2 days to iron out some details.
Trading at the PSE is suspended until further notice. Just as well - otherwise we might be in for daily bloodbaths. Stocks were down 7.9% today.
Good news is only 2 confirmed cases today, and no additional deaths. One of the new cases is Senator Zubiri.
The increased lockdown is harsh, but might be necessary for containment at this point, given the earlier mistakes.
Tuesday, March the 17th
I caught part of the morning DZMM program with Noli de Castro, he’s complaining about how unclear the details of the enhanced lockdown is. He speaks to a field reporter on Commonwealth who says there are still a few jeeps running but MMDA personnel are flagging them down telling them they can’t run their routes. Those with full passenger loads are told to complete one last pass then that’s it. There are a lot of commuters on the road trying to get a rare ride. The reporter interviews a security guard for a hospital who says he’s been waiting to get a ride for 1.5 hours.
De Castro calls up the mayor of Paranaque (Edwin Olivares, also chair of the Metro Manila Mayors group), who tells him the implementation details are mostly dependent on the LGU. As for those who still need to work (like the security guard above) and don’t have cars, they have no choice but to walk. (Sakripisyo daw)
Mid-day, a friend reports:
just got back from buying supplies and delivering to my aunt
lots of ppl at the banks that I passed
line at the grocery was long
line at the other grocery on anonas was hella long just to get in
a fair number of people just walking along the streets
saw one jeepney and a couple tricycles… maybe friends of brgy officials? who knows
saw very few cops. they must be at the entry and exit points between cities
If you have a car, it almost feels like holy week back in the 80s, when everything would be closed, but there are still some people going about
News comes out that last night, the President declared a state of calamity for the entire country. My understanding of this is that it’s mainly to unlock use of calamity funds.
The OVP has set up transportation support for frontliners starting tomorrow. The military will also be deploying army trucks. Social media is full of stories of ordinary citizens volunteering to provide transportation or other support to those who still have to work.
Manny Pacquiao has worked with Jack Ma’s foundation to have 50,000 testing kits donated to the Philippines.
Some social media influencer gets shamed for going off on people who are still going to work despite the enhanced lockdown. These trying times really make it easy to identify those who are unable to put themselves in other people’s situations and empathize.
Nograles talks to an early evening news program on TV , saying there will be a press conference later at 8PM discussing more details. The press conference happens past 11PM. It’s just Nograles and some other cabinet members, discussing details of who will be allowed to move around, what companies/industries will still be operating, etc. Basically details they should have had from the start.
The number of new cases today is +45, with 2 additional deaths. Total number of cases: 187, deaths: 14.
Wednesday, March the 18th
In the afternoon, Quezon City mayor Joy Belmonte announces “Extreme Enhanced Community Quarantine” (LOL) for selected barangays in Quezon City, specifically those barangays with 2 or more confirmed cases each. This enhanced lockdown (lets be real) means additional restrictions such as checkpoints and temperature scans in certain areas. Only those with essential travel needs will be allowed to pass. During the press conference, they identified several areas to be affected:
- a rectangular area around St. Luke’s Hospital near E.Rodriguez
- a circular area around the cluster of hospitals along East Avenue
- Quirino Memorial Medical Center (facility quarantine)
Additionally, Barangay Tandang Sora (where we live) is one of the identified areas with multiple cases, but they have yet to finalize which streets/areas to restrict. Reportedly, the cases are somewhere in the Himlayan area.
We were worried about how the lockdown would affect us so my parents decided to do a grocery run today (our last run was Friday). This gave me quite a bit of anxiety, since they’re both vulnerable seniors, but I couldn’t drive and I’m not the best shopper so I can’t make decisions in case of stuff being out of stock. They came back without incident, and reportedly the grocery practiced safe social distancing measures, so I assume (and hope) they’re fine. For future runs, we may try some online grocery sites such as Metromart, or I’ll do the run myself (and we just live with whatever terrible choices I make LOL.)
Today we are up to 202 confirmed cases (15 new cases) with 3 additional deaths (total 17). Over the past few days we have alternated big jumps and low jumps, so we might have more new cases tomorrow.
Thursday, March the 19th
No major announcements today. We are up to 217 confirmed cases (+15) and 17 (+0) deaths. Not bad considering I thought we’d get a big bump today.
Friday, March the 20th
No major announcements today. Well, there was a presscon by the president at 1am where he basically threw shade at the mayor of Pasig for daring to suggest something contrary to what the national government has advised. But nothing of significance.
I got out of the house today, but only to walk a little bit around the subdivision. I thought about walking around my usual route, but that seems like an unnecessary risk.
We are up to 230 cases (+13) and 18 deaths (+1). The growth rate is kind of plateauing, most probably due to lack of testing, but maybe not? We’ll see what happens.
Saturday, March the 21st
Word is going around in various QC barangays that the barangay personnel are issuing quarantine passes to households. AFAIK there has been no announcement from either the national government or the LGU, I’m not sure if it’s just the barangays being creative in implementation. Feels like unnecessary bureaucracy, and probably prone to abuse? We haven’t had anyone give us any yet. Regardless, we are mostly staying cooped up inside.
Rumors abound that there is a “secret protocol” at the RITM to prioritize VIPs in testing, and that the staff is furious but are afraid of violating NDAs. Sucks if true.
Today we are up to 307 cases (+77) and 19 deaths (+1). This is the biggest one day jump in cases so far. Presumably there has been a lag in testing, so we may be in for even more cases in the days ahead. The coming week may very well tell us what our eventual curve is going to look like.
Sunday, March the 22nd
It’s been just around one week of this lockdown. I think people are starting to get used to it? A lot of the less fortunate people are still suffering though.
This morning my dad and my tita went out for groceries. I didn’t find out about it until I went down around lunch time. I told them later that they should just let me go out if we need to do a grocery run.
I heard mass online again via the Quiapo church facebook page.
I thought I was getting a handle on all this covid19 news but I felt frustrated again today at a lot of bad news:
- DOH prioritizing VIP politicians for testing given limited test kits. The current head of the RITM has been removed allegedly due to his refusal to prioritize VIPs
- 530 hospital staff in UST quarantined
- The president asking congress for emergency powers (Senate President and the Palace spokesman both say it’s not emergency powers, some kind of BS). Basically this incompetent government after all this time assuring that they have the budget needed etc, say we should trust them with even more power and budget. And still no word on plans for mass testing!
Also, word in our barangay is that they are starting to distribute quarantine passes in our subdivision. We haven’t gotten one yet because they ran out or something, but they’ll be back tomorrow. We’re also told even with the pass, others can still go out as long as you have an ID with an address. Huh, what’s the point then?
As of tonight we have 380 confirmed cases (+73) and 25 deaths (+6).
Monday, March the 23rd
We’re entering the second working week of this lockdown.
The stock market was relatively calm today. The PSE Index dropped by about 0.74%.
Metro Manila hospitals are at or close to capacity; The Medical City advised that their ER beds are full and the same goes for other Pasig hospitals.
In a sign of how severely out of touch they are, the Speaker of the House and the Executive Secretary posted a picture of themselves with other congressmen at the house (for deliberations on the emergency powers bill), while holding a manila paper banner between them with a message along the lines of “Like our doctors and frontliners, we came to work for you, so please stay at home.” The internet responded… appropriately. “ANG KAKAPAL” trended on PH twitter for a while, and since they conveniently provided an image with a space for text, the memes started rolling.
I was so frustrated at the government today, I ended up writing a tweetstorm rant that evolved into this blog post. I even broke my Facebook isolation to post it there as well. It helped my sanity a little to write it out (and to get positive dopamine hits from the likes and shares.)
As of tonight we have 462 confirmed cases (+82) and 33 deaths (+8).
Tuesday, March the 24th
More hospitals today announced they are at capacity, including St. Luke’s and Makati Medical.
Last night in the wee hours, after more than half a day of sessions, emergency powers were granted by Congress to the president. The senate version was adopted, with a bit more checks and balances. That’s fine, but we must remain vigilant. For me, the main issue with the admin being granted emergency powers is that it has not proven competence and indeed has shown a tendency to abuse powers in the past.
The president held another address at 10pm (surprisingly on schedule). I did not listen to it, I’m told it was mostly thanking frontliners and law enforcement and encouraging the nation. (Sounds good.)
As of tonight we have 552 confirmed cases (+90) and 35 deaths (+2). The confirmed cases rate is still accelerating, albeit slower than I thought it would. As more people are tested, the curve of the death rate becomes a bigger indicator - it may indicate whether people are already dying due to hospital over capacity.
Today, the world crossed the 400,000 confirmed cases mark, 3 days after crossing 300,000.
Wednesday, March the 25th
Went out with my dad midday to get groceries. I had volunteered to go do it alone, but the problem was I can’t drive, and the 30-40 minute walk back might be problematic with the amount of stuff to buy. And it turned out if I didn’t have a senior citizen with me, I’d have had to wait in a long queue. It’s a tradeoff and a risk to be sure, but we tried to manage it. I did the main grocery shopping, he mostly just went to the pharmacy to buy meds. Hopefully that mitigates things. Anytime I go outside, there’s an additional bit of anxiety over the next few days to see if we develop any symptoms.
On our drive back, I noted that the nearby McDonald’s was the only open restaurant, and it was full of GrabFood drivers. We considered using their drive through, but I don’t actually like McDonald’s so I passed.
One of our “honorable” senators caused a shitstorm today when he showed up to a major private hospital with his wife for them to have a caesarean birth, knowing full well he should have been under home quarantine while waiting for COVID19 test results. His results came back while they were at the hospital and he had to leave and the whole delivery ward had to be decontaminated and HCWs put into quarantine. The speaker of the house and the mayor of QC must be glad there’s a new idiot taking the heat off of them.
As of tonight we have 636 confirmed cases (+84) and 38 deaths (+3).
Thursday, March the 26th
Thankfully, nothing exceptionally stupid from the government today.
Another senator has announced that he has been diagnosed positive though. And a VP loser, rumored to have been flown to Singapore due to possible severe Covid symptoms, was forced to issue a statement, this time inviting criticism due to him and his family and staff allegedly getting prioritized with tests.
As of tonight we have 707 confirmed cases (+71) and 45 deaths (+7). The world is also a sliver away from 500k cases.
Friday, March the 27th
Rumors have been circulating since the day before that a lockdown level up was in the works, perhaps as soon as this weekend. No such announcement came, and some admin people claimed it was fake news.
RITM rolls back the positive diagnosis for a congressman, saying they made a clerical error.
As of tonight, we have 803 confirmed cases (+96, biggest daily jump so far) and 54 deaths (+9, also biggest jump).
Saturday, March the 28th
Abuzz on the internets yesterday was the exchange between a science-student turned journalist and a infectious disease specialist consulting with the DOH, who sparred over some facts. The journalist was asking why we had tested so few people compared to other nearby countries of similar economic standing, but the doctor insisted the official numbers were much higher - except he was actually talking about number of tests conducted, not number of people tested, which was the comparison being made. This particular doctor had over the past few days established a reputation for being quite arrogant and self-centered, and dismissive of people who aren’t “experts”. Probably not the best person to be talking for the DOH (but he isn’t actually an officially spokesperson - a DOH usec later confirmed the journalist’s numbers were the official one).
A lot of the more science-y folk in my monkeysphere are not very happy with this particular doctor and how he handles himself on social media, and one of my friends (with a background in molecular biology) even got blocked trying to ask him about the technicalities. Regardless, I try to avoid delving into his conversations too much anyway, as he is only a DOH consultant and not an official spokesperson.
A lot of the things he are saying are counterproductive or non sequitur anyway. If I was a media person interviewing a Government or DOH spokesperson, the main question I would want asked would be:
- between the time of the first confirmed case (January 30) and up to the lockdown of Metro Manila (roughly a 6 week period), what preparations did the DOH undertake to make sure we would have sufficient testing capacity, hospital capacity, and available PPEs for our health workers and other frontliners in case the virus spreads?
I realize looking into the past may not be the most productive thing at the moment, but if the government and the DOH want us to trust them, I think they need to be able to acknowledge mistakes and lack of preparation. This helps us see that they know what went wrong and can adjust accordingly. Transparency begets trust, and the more trust we can have in our leadership, the easier it will be for the citizenry to bear the harsh burdens that the following weeks and/or months may entail. I want to believe they are capable of handling this situation. Give me hope!
As of tonight, we are at 1075 cases (+272) and 68 deaths (+14), both the biggest daily jumps so far. Presumably the RITM are starting to burn through the testing backlog.
Worldwide, we are past 650k cases. Jumped from 500k-600k in a day and a half.
Sunday, March the 29th
We survived 2 weeks of quarantine/lockdown!
I heard online mass again via the Quiapo Church facebook page. The priest reminds us that next Sunday is Palm Sunday, and thus next week is Holy Week. He says we just have two more weeks to go, but I am not as hopeful.
It’s hard to keep some of the seniors I live with under check. A couple of them went out for groceries without my knowing. I’m sure they’re being careful, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be worried and anxious D:.
Want to shout out some props to the OVP, they’ve been able to give support to the frontliners/health care workers even while running on donations and a limited budget. They’ve set up free transport routes, dorm rooms for those who want to stay near hospitals, and now they’re partnering with fashion designers to make custom PPE clothes.
The DOH released a statement saying some of the test kits from China were faulty, but then rolled it back later (presumably not to offend China).
WHO and China are increasingly coming under scrutiny for misrepresenting figures and mishandling the crisis.
As of tonight, we are at 1418 cases (+343) and 71 deaths (+3). We expect the cases to rise rapidly, given the increase in testing capacity, but we don’t yet know where the ceiling is. Today’s rate suggests doubling roughly every 3 days.
Monday, March the 30th
A press conference by the president was announced for 4PM today, presumably this is for the report required by the emergency powers law. I will update the time when that actually happens.
So that not everything is doom and gloom, here are some (presumably good) things the admin is doing:
- DOH expanded testing capabilities to 6 laboratories so far, and there’s a long list of other labs currently being accredited
- DOST says 120,000 locally-made test kits will be available by Apr 4
- DOH says 1 million PPE sets are due to be delivered and distributed. Hopefully these aren’t substandard quality and were not overpriced!
Several friends have mentioned that they have viber/messenger chat groups for their local areas so I ask for advice if there’s any for our barangay. Someone helpfully adds me to the viber group for QC, though I mute it almost immediately, as I (correctly) expect heavy volume there. I just want to have the channel available in case we need it later.
Finally at around 1140pm, the promised presscon finally airs. It’s pre-recorded, and rumor is it was already shot earlier and the day, no explanation for the long delay, but I would guess they had to find a decent/usable cut/take that didn’t make him look too much like an idiot. I didn’t watch, but here’s the summary I got from friends (my comments in italics):
- thanks frontliners (finally! he was roundly criticized for not acknowleding them before)
- appeals to the private sector to contribute to this national emergency (Pretty sure they’ve been doing that for the past 2 weeks)
- “We have allotted P200 billion for low income households who are badly affected by this crisis.” (This is good, but still only an allocation, hopefully it’s executed well)
- thanks those who silently helped
- speaking about frontliners who died of COVID-19: Napaka swerte nila namatay sila para sa bayan. It will be an honor to die for the country. (Maybe it’s just me, but this feels at least a teeny bit insensitive)
- says he will crackdown on corruption in COVID-19 funds (I’ll believe it when I see it. Also, what about crackdown on VIPs who ask for priority testing and who violate quarantine?)
- thanks governments of China and Singapore as well as local businessmen for their contributions
As of tonight, we are at 1546 cases (+128) and 78 deaths (+7). Low jump in cases today, have they already completed their backlog? We’ll see what tomorrow brings!
Tuesday, March the 31st
Minutes from a meeting between the IATF and private sector representatives were leaked online today. Looks like they are recommending a two-week lockdown extension. Private sector people later said it was just a brainstorming session.
Today, we got a copy of the report the palace submitted to congress as required by the emergency panel law. A lot of details in there.
Former senator and 2016 VP loser Bongbong Marcos has declared he was found positive of COVID19. Same goes for DILG secretary Ano.
Today, we are up to 2084 (+538) cases and 88 (+10) deaths. Despite a low bump yesterday, we still managed to double over 3 days. Let’s see how the rest of the week goes…
Wednesday, April the 1st
I know it’s April Fools Day, but there’s nothing funny about today’s events. I don’t normally swear, but what a fucking shitshow.
Sometime in the afternoon, a protest broke out at Sitio San Roque in Quezon City (near where my high school was), with the residents going out to the streets to complain about lack of food packs being distributed to them. These are urban poor-type people. Law-enforcement types came in to disperse them for violating quarantine, and violence broke out when people refused and complained. Multiple people were arrested. Arrested for complaining they were dying of hunger! The QC govt later issued a statement denying that relief goods had not been distributed to those areas and blamed instigators for causing trouble.
Later, the NBI summoned a popular city mayor for questioning about an alleged violation of the Bayanihan Heal As One Act (aka the emergency powers bill aka the BaHO Act), because he violated the natgov order not to allow tricycles to ply the roads. The thing is, that happened way before the BaHO Act was passed, and the mayor appealed to the natgov to let them use tricycles and when that appeal was denied, the mayor complied with the directives. Targeting a very popular local gov official turned out to be a very unpopular move, unsurprisingly, and many just assumed the president was being insecure because this particular mayor was serving his city well and was making him look bad. This is such an idiotic move, not even particularly corrupt or evil or sinister as it doesn’t really gain them anything; what purpose does it serve other than to make the people angry? An unforced error in a long line of unforced errors.
Some people suggested it might be a sleight of hand - to distract us with things they are doing with the emergency funds prescribed by the BaHO act. Supposedly the 1.8B pesos worth of PPE sets being ordered by the DOH are overpriced, but they of course denied that.
And then there was this directive that all donations to the DOH and to govt hospitals need to be coursed through the OCD, and hospitals have to make their requests in writing. Many questioned this added layer of centralized bureaucracy and some openly speculated that this was so that the donations could be “repackaged” and distribution controlled by a particularly influential senator through his “Malasakit centers”. If the idea is just to make sure all hospitals get served appropriately, perhaps a more prudent approach would have been for the DOH to continuously publish a priority list of hospitals with the most dire need of donations? The whole reason people are donating directly to the hospitals and hcws is the poor trust in the national government. Some have also suggested that this may be a way to exert some control over the OVP, which has been working hard to solicit donations and get supplies and support to hcws and other frontliners.
The icing on the cake: at around 10pm, an unannounced live press conference by the president was aired where he warned the people to just obey, even if relief goods are delayed, promising they will not die of hunger. And for those who would violate quarantine or cause trouble, he implied that the law enforcement types should just shoot to kill.
WTF. Think about that. People are anxious, worried, fearful, and most of all hungry and staving and you think the best move is to threaten them with violence and death?
Later, pictures came out of donated PPEs and face masks supposedly repackaged and branded as being from a certain senator. Unverified rumors also started to spread that certain private hospitals were raided to get their donations, so that they can be repackaged by the senator. These are yet unverified reports, the only evidence being screenshots of text convos between people who allegedly have first-hand knowledge. If it were true, one would think there would be images or video footage somewhere maybe? Someone I know asked her medical friends and they have no knowledge of such raids on the private hospitals. So maybe let’s leave that for now. But I think it’s a serious indictment of the trust in the natgov and that senator in particular that many people easily believe he could be behind such acts.
Today, we are up to 2311 (+227) cases and 96 (+8) deaths. The slope is around the same as the past few days (slightly less), which seems to imply that the limiting factor is how many tests are being conducted?
Thursday, April the 2nd
I’m writing this at a bit past 4pm. Ever since Duterte’s surprise address last night, #OUSTDUTERTENOW has been trending on Twitter, first locally to the Philippines, then worldwide at #1 (currently at 489k tweets). I took the liberty of taking a look of a few of the profiles using the hashtag, and as far as I can tell the traffic is organic; the accounts don’t look like bots, they tweet about a lot of other things (honestly most of it seems to be korean fandom, so maybe they’re young people), and aren’t recently created egg accounts.
Now, obviously I don’t like Duterte as a president and think he’s doing a terrible job. But I wish the Filipino people had chosen a better time to wisen up to his shortcomings than when we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Even if somehow there were an orderly transition (not bloody likely), the discontinuity in administration is bound to cause friction and hiccups in our pandemic response. Unfortunately, the administration is pretty bad in their crisis control and have made multiple unforced errors (see yesterday’s entry) that only increase the likelihood of social unrest and/or chaos. I would prefer we get past the current crisis first, then we exact accountability, but that may be wishful thinking…
Thankfully, the rest of the day was relatively saner compared to yesterday. As of 7pm, I am slightly more optimistic about the country again.
The DILG Sec Ano has some sane words about the NBI’s investigation of a popular mayor. He also says they will crack down on other chief executives not following the IATF guidelines.
A member of the Presidential Anti-Crime Competition floated the idea that the NBI should also investigate the OVP for “competing” against other government services. WTF? Later, the head of the PACC issued a statement saying that was not an official recommendation and the member was just expressing a personal opinion.
#OUSTDUTERTE vanished from the twitter trending lists by the time I woke up around lunch time, to be replace by typos like #OUSTDUTERE. Some are speculating it may be counter-ops by troll farms wishing to split the original hashtag. The funny thing is even the typo’d hashtag trended for a while!
Since the lockdown started, we haven’t gotten our regular newspaper delivery, so I’ve missed the opinion columns of some columnists I like such as Boo Chanco. I recently read a post of his on FB where he shared some thoughts from someone complaining how the government officials in charge had practically no knowledge of supply chain logistics, which made managing the quarantine much more difficult. Unfortunately when I checked his FB profile for the post, it could no longer be found! Either he set it to private due to being bashed by trolls or the person who shared the info asked him to take it down, maybe?
As of 7pm tonight, we are at 2633 (+322) cases and 107 (11) deaths. Still roughly the same curve. It’s actually possible we do have this thing under control, given our death count so far hasn’t been spiraling out of control like the US (who got their first cases much later than us). But we probably don’t have an accurate count - there might be a lot of deaths going unreported as covid19-related due to not being tested, or poor people not even bothering to go to the hospitals, etc.
I miss being able to go out. Not for hanging out with people, but just being able to take long walks and also to eat outside.
Friday, April the 3rd
Overnight, the worldwide tally of cases broke past the 1,000,000 mark (doubling in around 5 days) and 50,000 deaths.
A bit of good news: Late last night it was announced that mass testing of PUIs and PUMs is planned to start on April 14, so it’s a solid step towards the mass testing everyone had been clamoring for.
The mayor of QC issued a statement apologizing for her past statements on social media and for relief bags bearing her name. She still has a long way to go, but wow the ability to admit mistakes and apologize is super rare among politicians, and improves my trust rating of her and makes me see her more as someone just trying her best in a bad situation.
We had another surprise episode of Late Night with Duterte tonight. Most of it was the usual seemingly drunken rant (a friend of ours showed the stream to a UK colleague and the comment was “he looks so wasted!"), including an appeal/threat to obey the police and trying to justify his earlier violent statements, etc. He also spent quite a lot of time picking on former senatorial candidate Chel Diokno, in a manner that made him look like a shallow playground bully, including commentary on appearance. A bit of a plot twist at the end when he castigated the PACC official who suggested to investigate the OVP for helping the people and announced he would be fired.
As of tonight, we are at 3018 (+385) cases and 136 (29) deaths. Are deaths starting to accelerate?
Saturday, April the 4th
Today was relatively uneventful, thankfully.
As of tonight, we are at 3094 (+76) cases and 144 (+8) deaths. Virus taking a weekend break?
Sunday, April the 5th
We have completed three weeks of quarantine/lockdown! The original target end date for the lockdown was Apr 12th, but it seems highly probable that we will have an extension, at least until the end of April.
Generally uneventful, though I would like to note that anecdotally I have been reading more stories about people who criticize the government accused of being communists/leftists rebels (as if complaining is exclusively the domain of the left!). There’s even an infamous PCOO undersecretary accusing teachers at my high school alma mater of being CPP-NPA-NDF! I would guess the president’s threats against the “left” has galvanized his base into painting critics with a common brush, giving them an enemy to hate in this crisis; convenient since the true enemy is invisible and cares not about your red-tagging.
In better news, a number of politicians, including some mayors and congressmen and even the president himself, have committed to donating part or all of their salaries to the relief operations. It may not be much, but it’s something.
As of tonight, we are at 3246 (+152) cases and 152 (+8) deaths. Let’s see if the relatively lower numbers keep up during the coming week.
Monday, April the 6th
We are officially in week four of quarantine/lockdown!
I think by this point, most people are already expecting an extension at least until the end of April. Even Chief Impelementer Galvez (of the National Task Force Against COVID-19) is implying that’s where the task force is leaning.
Speaking of the task force, they have a twitter! They seem to be communicating better than other govt branches too, and they are friends with the OVP apparently. Galvez is one of the bright spots in the govt fight against the virus, so far.
This afternoon I went out to the nearby drugstore (around a 10-minute walk) to buy meds for my mom and maybe a tiny bit of groceries (the drugstore has a small grocery section). The drugstore had 3 short queues outside: one for regular transactions, one for senior/PWD transactions (this was the shortest line), and one for groceries (only 3 grocery people allowed inside at the same time). I was transacting for a senior, so I got to use the shortest line. Inside, what used to be the open counter of the pharmacy had a barrier of plastic wrap to separate the customers from the staff, with only a tiny hole to slide prescriptions and money and medicines across. Entire trip (including back and forth walk) took around an hour and a half.
It’s Monday, so we have a new episode of Late Night with Duterte. As usual, I didn’t watch, but here’s the summary I got from one of my chat groups:
- says poorest of the poor must receive gov’t assistance
- ₱100 billion for one month or the ₱270 billion for two months is not enough
- exploring adjustment of budgets
- asks for the cooperation of the public
- let’s heed the needs of our poor brothers and sisters
- on drug addicts: wag subukan ang gobyerno, ang gobyerno desperado na din (to solve the COVID-19 crisis)
- encourages everyone to wear masks
- nagdadasal ako para sa bayan
- kung may pera, d ko hawakan yan
- “it’s not my money d ko pwede nakawin, kung ma nakaw ko man, ano gawin ko sa pera na yan”
- if money allotted for next month is used now, no more money next month
- i want to give the poorest of the poor
- says Elly Pamatong “as president” instructs the military to catch Duterte
- Ako, I agree. Kung maaari lang, isali ko sila. (On adding middle class to social amelioration program)
- ang solusyon dito is vaccine
- itong problema natin, ang pang kontra nito is stay home, at wag ka mahawaan
- sana mapanood niyo yung Japanese
- hindi ko alam kung saan ako magkuha ng pera
- mas matindi ito sa gera, d mo makita kalaban, pati taliban takot sila
- Wag kang mahawa, mag-stay ka sa bahay. “pano pagkain namin?” maghanap ka ng paraan
- panawagan ko: be patient, intindihin niyo ang gobyerno, we’d appreciate it
- When the resources are all exhausted and the pandemic would claim millions of lives, I hope, really, and I pray that it would not. Pero kung ganun, wala na ako magawa.
- We are inclined to extend the lockdown up to April 30.
It looks like he is striking a softer tone than the last presscon, where it was like he wanted to pick a fight with everyone. A lot of it still seems senseless and incoherent, but I guess there’s a slight improvement? I prefer how the ntfcovid19ph is communicating.
As of tonight, we are at 3660 (+414) cases and 163 (+11) deaths. For looking at how the trend has been adjusting since the start of the lockdown, my thesis adviser Luis Sison has been posting some graphs regularly on Facebook..
Tuesday, April the 7th
The lockdown/ECQ has officially been extended until the end of April.
I did a grocery run today with my dad. He went to the bank while I did the grocery shopping. There’s still a decent number of people in the grocery, despite them limiting entry. Proper social distancing is probably impossible. I mean, if implemented properly, each aisle of the grocery is only wide enough for one person, so that means waiting patiently while the lady in front of you slowly goes through the items on the shelves. I tried to minimize getting too close unnecessarily of course, but it’s a challenge. For me, that means I’ll be anxious for the next week or so in case any symptoms appear.
The small Pizza Hut in the grocery building was open and doing takeout, but I only noticed when I was done, and there was a 30-45 minute wait. Should remember next time.
Of interest: Duterte’s timeline of incompetence post by JGS-UPD. I was thinking of incorporating something like this into this diary.
Word is that the defendants being represented by Chel Diokno after they were subpoena’ed by the NBI were investigated because of a social media post asking why the government doesn’t have money for healthcare when they have P2B for a gulfstream jet. Sounds like suppression of freedom of speech to me?
As of tonight, we are at 3764 (+104) cases and 177 (+14) deaths.
To be continued…