Thinking and Strategizing Beyond Lockdowns

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the government to constantly change and revise its response strategy based on trends in the number of infections, absorptive capacity of our healthcare system, and special variants of interest, among others. A critical component of the response strategy involves the periodic bi-weekly decision-making on the quarantine status of the country based on scientific and economic considerations.

A change or shift to a higher or lower quarantine status significantly impacts the economy, as well as the chances of transmission considering the entry of the new Delta and Lambda variants. A stricter quarantine status means non-essential industries will be forced to temporarily halt physical operations. The redeployment of border controls means non-authorized persons could be penalized for non-justifiable travel or movement. The objective of a strict quarantine status is to limit mobility, and subsequently slow down the spread of the virus. 

However, mobility within small and congested communities and conduct of social gatherings have not been significantly stymied by the most recent ECQ declaration. Within the period of 6-20 August 2021, there was a noticeable presence of children in the streets of Metro Manila. Ironically, in some areas within the Metropolis, children without masks are not reprimanded while nearby uniformed personnel are focused in calling out Public Utility Vehicles not following the capacity limitations. It has been recently observed that the Delta variant has infected more children than the original and prior variants. An event place in Pasig was recently closed by authorities as 41 individuals were caught violating protocols on mass gatherings. Despite the restrictions in place, the absence of sufficient deterrence and abusive behavior by some individuals and groups cast doubts on the effectivity of implementing ECQ/MECQ in slowing down the spread of the virus.

The impact of strict quarantine classifications is severely felt by the economy. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) estimates that the Philippine economy loses about Php 150 billion per week due to the implementation of ECQ. Based on the same NEDA estimates, it will increase the number of the poor by 250,000 while affecting about 600,000 workers. It is unfortunate that some family members, relatives, and close friends are actually part of the above statistical figures.

For a lockdown to be effective in achieving its goal of slowing down the transmission of the virus, there should be stringent implementation of quarantine restrictions, strategic intelligence work to determine potential underground violations, and a recalibrated economic strategy aimed at prioritizing financial relief to no work- no pay workers.

Balancing health and safety with the economy is difficult; hence this is the reason why we should elect leaders with dynamic and innovative minds and commitment to see things through until the end. The challenge for any government is to think beyond lockdowns to ensure that people don’t die because of starvation.

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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