THE world is still racing to contain COVID-19, better known to many as the coronavirus. Of course, the most badly-hit country is still China, where infections continue to go up but have slowed compared to a month ago. It’s hard to tell with the data coming out of China, which has been known to fudge the numbers to fit its narrative. Currently, there are close to 80,000 documented cases, with 2,619 fatalities. It’s true that the rate of recovery is high, but we shouldn’t become complacent as scientists are still in the process of understanding COVID-19, and how people can be protected from it.
While it seems that the number of infections has slowed down, there are more areas to watch outside of China: Iran, South Korea, and Italy. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has put the nation at the highest level of alert, citing the need for an “all-out, concerted response” to stop any further spread. Italy is taking similar measures, including regional lockdowns.
While the Philippines has seen a relatively slower growth of cases, the movements in South Korea and Italy should be of great concern to us. If I’m not mistaken, Italy is home to a large number of OFWs (over a hundred thousand), more than any other country in Europe.
South Korea plays hosts to roughly 60,000 Pinoys as well. Should things get out of hand, our government should already have contingency plans on how to evacuate our folks if necessary, similar to the actions of the US, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom.
Apart from the public health concern, measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 are also having an impact on the movement of goods. I’ve been hearing some small business folks complaining that their suppliers’ products are stuck in China, with no way of knowing when their orders will come. I wonder how widespread this experience is, considering how many products in our market today come directly from China: clothes, electronics, packaging, etc.
It’s a good thing that government gave the green light for our OFWs to return to Hong Kong. Livelihood is extremely important to many Pinoys, and perhaps this experience with Hong Kong should already spur the DOLE and OWWA to actively put in contingency measures to address similar situations should other countries impose travel bans as well, especially those countries who host tens of thousands of OFWs. Measures that can be activated immediately once the problem arises, with no downtime, and no waiting.