"We have for one year learned to live with COVID-19."
Placing Metro Manila under Modified General Community Quarantine will need a calculating and ingenious balancing act that the government agencies and the local government units would implement.
If approved by President Duterte upon the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the success of MGCQ will depend on everyone’s cooperation.
Note the keyword “community” which means it takes the entire village to pull off this delicate balancing act of reopening the economy, as well as keeping obedient to the health and protocol standards against COVID-19.
The National Economic and Development Authority said relaxing to MGCQ status throughout the country will give impetus to economic recovery with the resumption of more businesses and return of more workers to their jobs.
Apparently, our economic managers are pinning their hopes on the impending arrival and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
We are also encouraged by the high rate of recoveries of COVID-19 patients despite the absence of the antidote and the long wait for the development of vaccines.
The total number of COVID-19 patients has reached 553, 424, including 11,577 deaths as of Wednesday February 17. These are figures that the government had wanted to prevent in plunging the entire Luzon to total lockdown in March.
Suspension of classes at all levels, strict enforcement of curfew, immediate travel ban on foreigners, and mass COVID testing should have been the immediate responses, instead of total shutdown of the economy a year ago.
Without immediate mass testing, the lockdown instead contributed to the transmission of coronavirus in crowded communities.
We spent a lot of money springing stranded foreign tourists from beach resorts but thousands of locally stranded Filipinos (LSI) suffered and some died on the streets from hunger or illnesses.
It is sad to note that the corruption-ridden P180-billion Social Amelioration Program (SAP) did very little to alleviate the impact of the pandemic crisis on the poorest of the poor, many of whom did not receive even a singkong duling.
Now with continued increase in cases of infection amid threats of COVID variants’ spread, we face the predicament of reopening the economy to address worsening hunger, unemployment and business bankruptcy.
We want to protect everybody from contracting the disease at the workplace—but not everyone cannot work from home (WFH).
We do not allow school children to return to the classrooms to avoid possible COVID transmission among the kids but the IATF allows children to travel to crowded tourist spots like Boracay island.
We continue to restrict senior citizens over 65 years old and children under age 15 from going outside their residences to the detriment of their psychological health, and yet we are allowing more foreigners into the country on various visas.
With the support of various health groups, OCTA research group based in the University of the Philippines (UP) opposes the NEDA proposal to graduate the National Capital Region (NCR) to MGCQ.
The research group projects a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila and in other urban areas where there will be crowd gatherings in public places.
Well, maybe we should include in the scoreboard the number of Filipinos dying of hunger daily, being unable to buy food due to unemployment or unaffordable prices of food and commodities.
I do not think this is a choice between life and livelihood.
We have for one year learned to live with COVID-19, so to speak.
We know the minimum standards to observe to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the dreaded disease—washing hands frequently, carrying a bottle of alcohol or disinfectant, wearing of face masks and face shields if needed, and avoiding unnecessary physical contacts.
It is largely all up to us, really.