The chief public authority on health was told to focus on vaccine procurement and other matters after he was seen brandishing a long stick to once again enforce physical distancing measures in public areas.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was spotted in Brgy. Baclaran, Parañaque City for a “Bida Bastonero” visit, one of his agency’s initiatives in mitigating the COVID-19 transmission by enforcing the recommended physical distance of at least one meter.
One meter is nearly equivalent to a motorcycle’s length.
“Makatutulong ito sa pagputol ng kadena ng hawaan at mababawasan ang kumpulan sa public places,” Duque was quoted as saying in reports.
He also distributed face masks and face shields to residents and vendors. The health chief reminded them to maintain physical distance.
Photos of the health chief wielding a long stick to enforce the protocol were uploaded on Twitter, where some Filipinos expressed their disappointment over his initiative which they described as “trivial field work.”
“Amp*t**! Imbes bakuna ang dala dahil trilyon ang inutang, face mask at bastion pa din ang DOH!!!!” a Twitter user exclaimed, referencing billions of loans that were granted to the government in procuring COVID-19 vaccines.
“Ano Duque, hanggang stick ka na lang ba,” another online user wrote with a skull emoji.
A Twitter user asked if Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor of America’s White House, has been “seen” doing such an initiative.
“This is just optics! Sec. Duque, there are other pressing reasons why we are the worst in ASEAN in COVID-19 cases but you’re looking the other way while carrying that stick!” the online user continued.
“What if mag-focus po tayo sa pagpapabilis ng pagdating ng vaccine? Sa pag-lessen ng cost ng tests para mas magi itong affordable sa mga ordinaryong mamamayan? Sa pag-aayos ng health protocols na sa buong bansa. Tama na ang mga ganito, Sec Duque,” another Twitter user commented.
The health secretary has been similarly criticized for the same initiative last year, when he enforced physical distancing protocols in Bonifacio Global City with a meter stick. A video of it went viral on social media.
READ: Theatrics? Duque accused of pulling stunt in mall COVID-19 protocol inspections
Dr. Tony Leachon, former special adviser to National Task Force against COVID-19, had accused Duque of doing “photo ops” after seeing the clip while the “rest of the world is busy vaccinating their people.”
His sentiments were echoed by other Twitter users who likewise urged the health chief to attend to other matters like vaccine procurement at that time.
The “Bida Bastonero” is a DOH initiative in which security officials or other personnel are assigned to enforce physical distancing measures among the public.
Last Wednesday, police officers who were patrolling in Quezon City used their rattan sticks to enforce physical distancing measures.
Those who would be found abusing it or using it other than its expected means can be reported through the city’s hotline.
Strictly practicing physical distancing measures is one of the means of preventing the spread of COVID-19 which has a high transmission rate.
Experts said that observing such a preventive measure is crucial for “flattening the curve” or significantly reducing the number of infections in a community so that the health care system wouldn’t be burdened.