"Our aim should not be to manage the next ECQ better, but to never have to resort to tight restrictions again."
As the National Capital Region goes into yet another round of Enhanced Community Quarantine later this week, one would imagine that we would be able to cope with the lockdown better. It is tempting to think we would have an easier time adjusting to the strict measures because we have learned from our experiences in March last year and in April this year.
The truth, however, is that it never gets easier.
The strictest form of lockdown appears to be the last resort of decision-makers to address what is now turning out to be another surge in the number of new cases. On Sunday, there were 8,735 new cases recorded, bringing the total number of Filipinos who have had the virus to 1,597,689. Active cases have shot up to 63,646, while the total number of deaths now stands at 28,016.
Indeed, drastic action is needed.
This time around, there are a few factors that were not present during the earlier instances of ECQ. Aside from the significantly higher number of cases, the variant responsible is said to be more transmissible such that no prolonged contact is even necessary for it to spread.
What was also not present before are the vaccines, whatever brand they may be. As of July 29, some 7.8 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, representing 13.5 percent of the 58 million targeted by the government. It is a long way to go, and we are told that even those who have been vaccinated may still contract the virus, but this at least offers a measure of protection to millions of people.
From experience in the past 16 and a half months, we have also gleaned a few things.
First, following basic protocol helps. Wearing face masks and face shields, frequent washing of hands and observing physical distance as much as possible are good ways to prevent infection.
Second, experts rule. We should listen to those who speak according to science and evidence, not those who speculate or try to appear knowledgeable or tough.
Third, people are afraid of the virus, but they are even more afraid of dying from hunger. This is the reason many continue to go out despite the very real risk of infection. Many are not out there because they want to defy the rules for kicks -- they know that if they do not go out to earn something, whichever way they can, their families will go hungry. This is a fact we have known even before the pandemic.
Fourth, people, even those who are hard up, will generally help each other. We have seen this in action in the touching stories of the community pantries that were put up last April. Alas, those who felt insecure about the pantries’ tangible effects resorted to maligning the people behind this effort, accusing them of fronting for communists or having agendas of their own.
While many remain hesitant to be vaccinated because of lack of information or fear of the unknown, there are many willing to be vaccinated but do not know how or where to go. We know supply is tight in the global market, but this does not mean we should stop trying hard to get our hands on as many vaccine doses at the soonest possible time, as well as roll them out to various local government units.
Finally, we know all too well that it is the decisiveness, compassion and efficiency of the leadership that determine the success or failure of the pandemic response.
Our aim should not be to manage the next ECQ better, but to never have to resort to tight restrictions again.