"Most Filipinos have heeded the basic health protocols and are responsible enough to avoid infection."
The Philippines probably has one of the longest and strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world. Mobility restrictions for close to a year have caused the economy to contract 9.5 percent in 2020, the steepest decline in Asia.
It is no wonder then that Economic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua is proposing to place the entire country under the least restrictive level starting in March to further reopen the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Economic and Development Authority forwarded several recommendations to Malacañang. These include the relaxing of the age restrictions of people allowed to go out of homes, expansion of public transportation operations, and the conduct of pilot face-to-face classes in areas with low risk of coronavirus infection.
The proposal has gained the support of some senators, provided the usual health protocols like wearing masks and social distancing are strictly observed. Senator Nancy Binay offered the most sober opinion on the issue—the Philippines cannot be locked down forever, and that children cannot be in their houses forever.
Critics of NEDA’s recommendations expectedly raised the fear factor, noting that COVID-19 was still spreading across the country and that a further reopening of the economy would exacerbate the situation. Such apprehension may be true. But local government units should be responsible for managing the spread of the disease.
Many LGUs have not been doing their job of enforcing the health protocols, especially on children roaming the streets of Metro Manila. LGUs, especially their barangay units, should be accountable for managing the COVID-19 disease through strict enforcement of health guidelines. Contract tracing is still weak in the barangay level. They should implement localized lockdowns at the village or municipal level to curb the spread of the illness.
LGU leaders, including governors and mayors, should bear in mind that nationwide lockdowns will not necessarily curb the virus spread if the basic health protocols are not religiously implemented.
Most Filipinos have heeded the basic health protocols and are responsible enough to avoid infection. They will not let their guard down even if all the virus restrictions are lifted. They have their own children, spouse and parents to protect when they come home from work.