Leaving it to the peopleAfter the fast spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, positive cases have surged to almost 50,000 daily, an increase of more than 13,000 cases in just a day. The sharp growth in infections despite a noticeable reduction of PCR tests by two thirds raises red flags. The public wonders what will happen if the figure soars to 170,000 by the end of February.
Many people are worried if they can expect to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. The revised guidelines on quarantines the government announced Monday only fanned public concern as they are primarily based on “self-quarantine” and “self-treatment.” Worse, the government made public the shifts without any warning.
The new guidelines focus on dealing with 160,000 patients currently in isolation at home by dividing them into three groups: people aged 60 and older; people in their 50s with underlying diseases; and people with light symptoms or without symptoms. But the third group, which accounts for 85 percent of patients, must do tests by themselves as test kits and oxygen saturation checking devices are not supplied anymore. They must buy those kits from pharmacies and other places, but the prices shot up due to strong demand. The government promised to supply enough for 10 million people by the weekend, but preparations are essential.
If symptoms worsen, patients must receive a remote diagnosis from neighborhood hospitals and clinics or consultation centers run by local governments. The problem is a critical lack of preparations for the remote service. Despite the need for sufficient medical staff, equipment and guidelines, the government unilaterally instructed municipal governments to provide the services to patients. Such makeshift policies only help fuel public anxiety. A patient repeatedly dialed a public health clinic to get information on those centers, but had to hang up.
Since early December, public health experts have warned of a possible surge in cases if the Omicron variant became the dominant strain. We wonder what the government has been doing. A growing number of people are asking why the government has decided to limit PCR tests to people aged 60 and above after it was bent on applying draconian quarantine rules based on tough social distancing, stifling regulations on business operating hours and introduction of the vaccine pass system. Many people point to the need for the government to slim the size of positive cases to get control over the virus. The government’s sudden shift to an approach based on self-defense and self-treatment makes us question the raison d’être of a government.