WE’RE in it for the long haul, dear millennials and fillennials.
The enhanced community quarantine has been extended for another two weeks in Luzon and other areas, owing to the fact that COVID-19 cases are still going up, albeit at a relatively slower pace. I don’t disagree with this decision, and foresee another extension beyond May 15.
However, government must continue to step up testing efforts in order to truly see how widespread the virus is among our communities. Without it, no amount of lockdown can help us flatten the curve, since we will have incomplete information about the true situation. Think about it: how can government effectively implement isolation measures when it has one hand tied behind its back?
A wholesale decision to isolate everybody brings with it the stark reality we face—many of our countrymen are poor and can no longer afford to skip work. A big segment of our population can no longer continue to wait for relief from government, should more extensions be implemented in the future.
Barangays and local governments are already feeling the strain of running point for their constituents, and exacerbated by the fact that the Social Amelioration Program was badly communicated. It seems that there is a big disparity between what was announced by government as to the number of families that will be covered by the aid. Pasig City under Mayor Vico Sotto has stepped up and is moving to cover the disparity with the LGU’s own funds, which is a good thing. But sadly, not all LGUs are in a position to do the same, for a variety of reasons.
While national government is ever so slowly catching up with what needs to be done, it’s good that local governments, despite the massive burden left on its shoulders, are continuing to power through the situation. Individual cities have implemented their own mass testing programs: Valenzuela, Makati, Quezon City, and Pasig. These programs will help the guide their respective local executives when it comes to deciding which persons will need to be placed in isolation centers, and which areas will need more attention.
Mass testing will also help government determine which industries and businesses can be allowed to resume operations. Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon, in his support for the Department of Labor’s proposal to allow workers from the construction, manufacturing, and agricultural subject to social distancing protocols, put it bluntly: “The social unrest that could result from two million workers unemployed for the past six weeks is a reality we face.” The support for DOLE is not unqualified, as Drilon cautions that any resumption of work in these sectors should be coupled with “rapid and mass testing” to prevent any further spread among the employees.
This condition prevents any reopening to be similar to that implemented in the state of Georgia in the United States, where salons, spas, tattoo parlors and other non-essential establishments were allowed to open (even bowling alleys!) despite the lack of a viable plan for testing within the state, and despite figures from the CDC showing that Georgia isn’t anywhere near flattening the curve.
While the race for finding a cure and a vaccine is on hyper drive, medical experts say that realistically, the world is looking at a year and a half before a safe vaccine can be approved, manufactured, and made available globally. It’s possible that there may be a gradual easing of restrictions in the near term, but that does not mean we can go back to our pre-COVID ways. We will all have to drastically alter our old behavior to ensure that we do not further the spread of the virus.
Until then, keep safe, be kind to those you meet, and wash your hands properly.