ECQ, Season Two

We are now on “ECQ, Season Two,” and it is up to us if we want another round of tough community quarantine classifications and lockdowns to be enforced or we are going move towards re-open of the economy and going on with lives safely by following basic health and safety protocols, and by being responsible for ourselves, our loved ones and our community.

At this same time last year, Metro Manila and much of Luzon were placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) by the government to stop the spread of COVID-19. For the first time a very long time, summer vacations, the traditional commemoration of Lent and the celebration of Easter were all disrupted by an unknown pathogen that was quickly spreading and causing many to get sick or die. The health care system of the Philippines, especially that of Luzon, was feeling extreme pressure, as doctors, nurses and other medical front-liners were struggling to contain the spread of the disease, with some of them being hospitalized or dying from it. There was confusion, fear and worry from many Filipinos, as the lockdowns imposed by the government caused anxiety not only because of the new disease but also the economic uncertainties brought about by job cuts, closed businesses and income losses.

Fast forward to April 2021, and the Greater Manila Area is, one again, placed by the government under ECQ, no thanks to a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, which is also being seen in many other countries. However, unlike last year's ECQ, the ECQ of 2021 allowed some businesses to operate, some individuals to work and public transport vehicles to operate on a limited basis. Unfortunately, akin to what happened last year, the health care system of Luzon is again feeling the pressure, as COVID-19 dedicated beds and wards are almost becoming full, and a large number of individuals are crowding emergency rooms of hospitals and even isolation and quarantine facilities in hopes of being checked by doctors, and, for those who will turn out positive for COVID-19, admitted for appropriate treatment, although the silver lining this time is that the doctors, nurses and other front-liners are more well-prepared for the war against the disease.

There are several theories on why there is a sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Greater Manila Area and the rest of the Philippines this year. Some experts cite the possibility of new variants or mutations of the COVID-19-causing virus, which are said to be more contagious compared to the original pathogen, although such theory has yet to be established and it is unknown if they are more lethal. There is now concern that the COVID-19 vaccines may not work on the new variants or mutations, although some pharmaceutical companies and researchers say that a number of those work effectively against the likes of the United Kingdom variant, South African variant and Brazilian variant of the pathogen.

However, one thing has not changed from last year, and that is some Filipinos not taking the situation seriously, and ignoring basic health and safety protocols. Despite the widespread information campaign about COVID-19 and how catching the disease can be avoided, many stlll opt to go on with life like as if the Philippines and the rest of world operate under normal times, ignoring calls to wear face masks and face shields, practice social distancing, and clean hands with soap and water or with alcohol or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. To make matters worse, authorities seem to be too lax in implementing the COVID-19 protocols, no thanks to obstructionists and opportunists taking advantage of the situation to brand the government as "fascist" and "dictatorial," and the outright lack of respect to authority and their countrymen by quite a number of Filipinos.

Frankly speaking, ECQ, Modified ECQ, General Community Quarantine (GCQ), Modified GCQ and granular lockdowns are all Band Aid measures that are not sustainable in the long run and will cause more harm than good. We have seen an increase in unemployment and hunger incidence, no thanks to limited mobility, job cuts and business closures as a result of lockdowns being imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. Even incidents of depression and suicide have seen a significant increase in recent years, no thanks to the lockdowns and the anxiety that they bring.

The Philippines and the rest of the world cannot stay under a lockdown forever. We all have to co-exist alongside the virus that causes COVID-19 in the same way that we co-existed alongside the pathogens that cause AIDS, Ebola, tuberculosis and other diseases. As human beings, we have the capacity to adjust to the new situation right in front us but we have to be willing to take the challenge and win over it.

If we want to end ECQ and other measures being implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19, we have to recognize the fact that it is discipline, and a sense of personal accountability and responsibility towards one's self, loved ones and community, not just the vaccines, that will help our country to safely re-open. It does not take rocket science for us to practice basic health and safety protocols since some of them, especially the cleaning of hands with soap and water, have been taught to us since we were young. People practicing basic health and safety protocols, with authorities ensuring that they will be strictly implemented and followed by everyone, will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially among families, co-workers and the community, ultimately leading to the safe re-opening of the economy, return of people to work and unimpeded flow of commerce.

We are now on “ECQ, Season Two,” and it is up to us if we want another round of tough community quarantine classifications and lockdowns to be enforced or we are going move towards re-open of the economy and going on with lives safely by following basic health and safety protocols, and by being responsible for ourselves, our loved ones and our community.

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About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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