covid19, current events, socio-cultural

The OCTA Case: Should lockdowns be the only weapon against rising Covid19 cases?

OCTA Research, “a polling, research and consulting firm”, as described in its website, is under attack from some quarters for telling people that there is another surge in Covid cases and what is needed is another lockdown.

I am glad that there is criticism, but the attack is against OCTA and not against the government. OCTA is just doing statistical analysis and prediction. Should they also recommend government policy actions? Maybe not. They can suggest, but the government can just ignore its recommendation,

But what data are they using? Even government data are not reliable. Do they understand the context of their data? As pointed out many times last year, the data are not in real time. It depends on the submissions of the testing centers and hospitals. It also takes a few days to a week to see the results of tests. And there is the issue of false positives. It is apparent that the government counts the false positives as true positive cases.

Another thing, OCTA always recommends lockdown to ease pressure on hospitals. But how many beds are allocated in hospitals? On TV, we have seen hospitals in Europe and India with covid19 patients lying on beds in the corridors of hospitals. Do we see that here? St Luke’s hospitals, for example, allocate only 25% of their occupancy to Covid patients. There are numerous reports of hospitals refusing to accept serious Covid patients, resulting in deaths of these patients. Yet according to a NEDA undersecretary (de Leon), 25 % of covid patients in hospitals have just mild symptoms.

Statistical softwares depend on the credibility of their data – Garbage In, Garbage Out. In the Philippines, there are No Mass Testing and No Mass Contact Tracing. There are Very Few Isolation Centers, and Treatment at hospitals are very hard to get. (Unless you are a Sec. Roque, you cannot easily get a hospital room if you have Covid.) So, basically, the Government’s weapon against the pandemic is Lockdown! Which is also the prescription of OCTA!!

(Parenthetically, all this talk of statistical methods reminds me of the time when I was with the Government. I questioned the Department’s forecast for the year. When the concerned bureau did not want to change their data, I told them I would do my own one-year forecast. I submitted my forecast to the Department Secretary. And every quarter, I submitted to the Secretary my 3-month forecast side by side with the Department’s forecast. Mine were spot on while the. Department’s (made by a Bureau) was quite off. The Bureau simply asked for data from our subsidiaries and the main industry players and did Regression Analysis. I included data from related industries most likely to influence demand. I also took into consideration the economic and political situation.)

OCTA is just doing statistical analysis, using government data, probably obtained online. So why does it have a seemingly strong influence on Duterte and the IATF junta?!

Maybe it doesn’t. Most probably, the military, the politicians and old fogies of the IATF junta just don’t know better and they proclaim OCTA’s prescription of lockdowns as knee-jerk reactions.

I hope the Congresspersons know the right questions and the right answers so they won’t be intimidated by all the gobbledygook of the academics. The data of the government is not even reliable. It is just as well as to assume that government data is very conservative and not in real time. Any good and real statistical analysis would show much larger numbers.

Real or near-to-truth numbers cannot be obtained if there is no Mass Testing. Any predictions would just be speculation. I don’t doubt the expertise of OCTA people in statistical calculations, but I doubt their expertise on epidemiology and virology. Their forecast on number of cases may be correct, but they have not enough expertise to recommend government policies on the pandemic crisis.

The point here is that HUGE numbers cannot be reduced by Lockdowns alone. Lockdowns are stop-gap measures. What is needed is a combination of methods — Mass Testing; Mass Contact Tracing; Construction of massive or numerous isolation centers and treatment centers for mild and medium cases – all positive and prospective positives should be given medicines and supplements like Vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin D, analgesics , antipyretics, and anti-inflammatory drugs; Treatment of medium and serious covid patients in hospitals (Non-admission of serious covid patients, esp. those who die because of it should be punishable in the extreme by law.)

And quite importantly, the government should close the international borders — no incoming people from anywhere for 3 months, at least. .

But most importantly, there should be no government monopoly in treating covid patients. There should be a government directive that ALL hospitals should allocate at least 60% bed capacity to covid patients. There should be NO government monopoly in testing and selling of test kits. Companies should be directed to test their employees. LGUs should have independent testing centers. LGUs and hospitals should be allowed to buy PCR machines directly from abroad, and not from the national government. There should be NO government monopoly on Covid donations. Hospitals and NGOs should be allowed, with no government hassle, to accept non-taxable donations of Covid-related things. Government should make it easy for private businesses to buy vaccines for their employees. Plus there should be government aid — food and money — during all kinds of quarantine and lockdowns (ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, MGCQ, etc.)

As I have been saying since Day 1, the Government is not equipped to handle a pandemic on its own. The Best and the Brightest are NOT in the government. Pouring money to the government to solve the covid crisis is like pouring water down the drain. The trillions of pesos budgeted for Covid these past two years have only made the government sink in a huge pile of debts, and has really nothing much to show for it. According to some international think tank groups, the Philippines is the LEAST SAFE country in the world with regards to the Covid pandemic. It is unfortunate that both Houses of Congress are subservient to the Executive, the opposition politicians are not critical of government policies, the Mass Media treat Government pronouncements of Covid19 Policies as holy commandments to be strictly followed without question. There is just no system in the government’s handling of this Covid19 madness.

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