Lockdown losers

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    THERE are no winners in a pandemic.

    As many of you know, a month-long, NCR-wide community quarantine has been imposed by government in a bid to stop the further spread of COVIC-19 in the Philippines.

    Bedlam ensued because of the poor communication of the measure to the public, exacerbated by contradicting public statements issued by government officials.

    So the exodus began, with many Pinoys scrambling to leave the capital within the three-day window following the announcement of the community quarantine and its actual implementation.

    Because of the sometimes asymptomatic transmission of the virus, we may never know how many of those who left inadvertently carried the virus to the provinces.

    Governments all over the world (ours is no exception) are scrambling to contain the spread of the virus in their respective jurisdictions. While we can certainly look at other countries whose efforts have been largely successful (see South Korea and Singapore), the circumstances of the Philippines leave us in a more difficult predicament than some.

    You see, the working class and those living below the poverty line are the ones who are greatly affected by the community quarantine. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, NCR has a population of around 12.8 million people from its last count. If you cross match that figure with the poverty incidence in the area, that comes out to about 537,600 folks, not including the ones falling under what they call subsistence incidence, or people who must work in order to have food for that same day.

    They are the ones who rely on government hospitals for their medical needs, the ones who use public transport on a daily basis, the ones who walk to ply their wares on the street. I understand the purpose of the community quarantine—we all must make sure we do not spread the virus to others—so that is not the issue here. What is in question is the lack of safety nets being imposed in tandem with the community quarantine to ensure maximum efficacy.

    You see it all over social media— people chiding each other to stay home and watch Netflix.

    That’s good, for a very small population. If your employment or profession allows you to work from home, then it is best to do so. The reality, however, is there are many residents in the National Capital Region and all over the country that simply cannot afford to stay home. I understand social distancing is also a viable measure, but it is practically dead in the water in a metropolis like Manila where taking public transport means being in very close proximity to your fellow commuters.

    See the pandemonium being caused by the ill-planned community quarantine—workers entering the borders of Metro Manila at various points are jammed in long queues for hours.

    Commuters lined up for a longer period of time because social distancing measures are being implemented in the trains, which means a lesser number of people can ride at a given time.

    We have a long way to go in terms of the duration of the community quarantine and ultimately, stopping the spread of COVIC-19. I hope that while government is playing catch up, it will be open to tweaking the current measures to be more responsive to the needs of those who are most vulnerable, and to the practical realities on the ground. It’s not too late. Wash your hands properly, dear millennials and fillennials.

    Stay safe, and watch out for each other.

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