Homing In

Homing in is a way to reconnect with families and communities. We might well get out of this global challenge with stronger communities and a world that talks to all because we share information in a very transparent way and governments are accountable for the actions they take. In the end, humanity will find its way home. 

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on March 10, 2020. 

Crowds are now to be avoided as the whole of humanity battles the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Social distancing is the norm. Social mores of handshaking and “beso-beso” are shunned these days. Talk is aplenty about remote working and continuity learning via online/blended classrooms in the era of lockdowns and travel bans. Covid-19 is our collective volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, where countries are now putting together the best way to operate with less contamination and more community policing. Cleanliness is now the norm from the individual to the collective. Money is being poured in to clean buildings, streets and key locations upon receiving a report of contamination. Closure is the best solution than exposing more people to something still unknown. Prevention is the way to go and once afflicted, tests need to be made and isolation protocol of 14 days are strictly followed. The problem is testing is not personal and slowing the spread is vital. 

The good thing is that money is being properly used to put together personal testing kits, study the virus and test solutions to best contain the spread. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is leading the offensive in Seattle, Washington. The foundation is “stepping up to increase not only the volume of tests that can be run but also in providing a usable platform for potentially impacted people to request a test to be sent to their homes with results provided within a couple of days. The target is for 400 tests processed per day, to start. While modeling is being done, Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, suggests the actual number of infections in the Seattle area is between 500 and 600. Unchecked, that is, projected to increase to 30,000 by the end of March — underscoring the importance of slowing the spread as quickly as possible. Tech, medical research expertise and philanthropic money are all being used for expanded testing and analysis. 

Still, the key stakeholders need to do their respective roles at home, schools and universities, work, community and faith-based organizations, large community events and mass gatherings, health care setting, and first responders. “Community-based interventions such as school dismissals, event cancellations, social distancing and creating employee plans to work remotely can help slow the spread of Covid-19. Individuals can practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes.” Self- quarantine is responsible behavior. It is both crucial and necessary. 

The use of alcohol and gloves are vital because not all places, transport and anything public are 100 percent clean — from churches, hotels, malls, markets, groceries and the like. Mitigation is important. But the race is on for the vaccine. Sharing information and technologies could potentially shorten the period so that within the year, a vaccine would have been made. Real time sharing drives everyone to work together and find a shared solution. 

Consequently, the new norm would require updated protocols from the Department of Local Employment and Civil Service Commission regarding work. They have to be proactive if we are to address the issues on remote working arrangements. The Department of Education should decide once and for all about ending early the academic year and probably canceling graduation ceremonies. The Commission on Higher Education should put together protocols to shift to online learning to finish the current semester. Summer will be near and could be a good thing for all of us since the virus is said to not thrive under hot temperatures. 

The amounts being set aside by countries are humongous: $8 billion for the US and $4 billion for Singapore. Canada is setting aside $20 million, while the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is earmarking $4 million and the United Nations’ Central Emergency Fund has released $15 million. The US Agency for International Development, through its Emergency Reserve Fund for Contagious Infectious Diseases, has set aside $37 million to help high-priority countries, including the Philippines. And we are said to be thinking of borrowing from ADB when the offshore gaming operators can be milked well so taxes are correctly paid. 

What is working for all is that: “We know what the virus is; we know how to detect the virus; situation in China is improving; 80 percent of cases are mild; people heal; symptoms appear mild in children; virus can be wiped clean; science is tracking it in a global manner; vaccine prototypes are being made and antiviral trials are under way.” 

The problem with homing in is the spread of news that is reckless, which has caused panic to all. It is aiding the spread of Covid-19. Without much to do, digital natives will be online more and more with truncated academic calendars. And with parents doing work at home, there is much leeway for online engagements. Memes that are not properly labeled should not be shared. Screaming headlines and videos that show mass movements abandoning certain areas should be double-checked. Fake news is “manufactured with no respect for accuracy. 

Fake news stories are so popular because it brings social status into the frame and our love of a good tale. They can be entertaining and satisfy our need to divulge news, share gossip and be first to break. Studies on said phenomena are concluding that humans are “programmed” to find these stories appealing. “Promoting conspiracy theories is thought to raise the social status of the promoters: they become holders of special information. Sharing and indulging in conspiracy theories can give someone a tribe to belong to.” While it is likely we have always had these affinities, the growth of social media has amplified our ability to share and spread fake news, as well as created a new way to monetize the process on a large scale. 

Homing in is a way to reconnect with families and communities. We might well get out of this global challenge with stronger communities and a world that talks to all because we share information in a very transparent way and governments are accountable for the actions they take. In the end, humanity will find its way home. 

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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