Ang Bayan
April 21, 2020

Precaution, best measure against Covid-19 in the countryside

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The Covid-19 spreads rapidly in the cities because of congestion and close interlinks among its residents. Eventually, it will reach the countryside as peasants leave their areas to sell their harvests and buy necessities in the cities. Workers and investors of mining, plantations and other commercial operations also come and go.

Experts believe that the virus will not spread as quickly in the countryside as areas there are not con­ges­ted unlike the cities. On the other hand, it can possibly be harder to contain and become more deadly as health systems there are backward and facilities are limited. They advise that the best preparation for the pandemic is to follow health measures recommended by medical institutions. These include maintaining personal hygiene, social distancing, avoiding going to crowded places and contact with infected individuals, consulting a doctor or health worker if one experiences symptoms and staying informed about the locality and national health situation.

But aside from these, the barrio health infrastructures must be prepared. This entails ensuring enough supplies and equipment, building proper facilities, training of health workers and putting into place a satisfactory communication system.

Currently, supply and equipment in the countryside are insuficient, if there are any, to counter an epidemic or calamity. Medical supplies such as face masks, other personal protective equipment and disinfectants are sourced from cities which are currently suffering from shortages. The barrios have no medicines for infected patients at all.

Trainings for health workers are also limited. According to statistics, there is an average of one doctor, assisted by two nurses and five midwives deployed in ba­ra­ngays for every town. Often, nurses and midwives mange barangay health centers to provide primary care to pregnant women, infants and elderly. No program has been implemented to train them on how to conduct mass testing or screening, monitoring and contact tracing, and isolation unit services.

More than half of all barangays have no health centers. In 2017, there were only 20,216 health centers in the entire country. Existing centers have very limited facilities. There are neither beds for patients, nor isolation units for the infected. Hospitals, clinics and laboratories are far-flung and oftentimes, making it impossible to transport patients.
Communication systems and information dissemination is also problematic. Wrong information, often tainted by politicking, speculations and unscientific cures are prevalent in the countryside.

AB (2020-04-21): Precaution, best measure against Covid-19 in the countryside