ECQ requires lots of faith, hope, charity
WE were muttering how cruel it was – as we watched videos of people flocking at dawn Thursday to COVID-19 vaccination centers in the nation’s capital to get a quick jab, only for many to be turned away because there were not enough vaccines.
People lining up had reason to be frantic. The two-week Enhanced Community Quarantine (the Aug. 6-20 lockdown) in Metro Manila was to start the next day, and President Duterte had announced that those still without vaccination won’t be allowed out of their houses.
It would be akin to being under house arrest, a frightening prospect for countless Filipinos who eke out a hand-to-mouth existence by going out each day to earn a few pesos for the day’s basic needs.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año warned that the police would arrest those who are not APOR, another acronym added to the regime’s thickening alphabet soup which stands for “Authorized Person Outside of Residence” who he said may become COVID-19 carriers.
(Has anybody asked how the police will classify the eternally homeless, those who have no “residence”, who have nothing except the overcast sky as the roof over their heads?)
We assume Año was aware that such arrests could be problematic. Aside from raising legal issues, rounding up non-APORS would require more detention space in the already crowded jails and worsen the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.
The afterthought may have crossed their mind. Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar assured everybody the next day that he has ordered his men to exercise “maximum tolerance” in handling non-APORs.
Scaring people who had not been fully informed of what lies ahead, then blaming them for the chaotic aftermath, was cruel to say the least. Others who went through the harrowing Thursday experience said it was crazy, if not criminal.
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ASIDE from being cruel, the ECQ in Metro Manila will be costly. The authorities cannot lock in people without also locking down the economy, so the experts expect to see losses greater than the cost of buying and deploying the needed vaccines.
Imagine a growth engine like Greater Manila that contributes some 35 percent of the gross domestic product down-shifting to idle gear.
Witness also the folly of relegating to the police and barangay tanods the task of stopping – physically! – the spread of the invisible virus in the densely populated metropolis.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said that the economy will lose at least P300 billion during the two-week ECQ, assuming Metro Manila will be the only growth center to be locked down.
The ayuda (cash aid) that the government has promised to dole out to the poor, who are easily 65 percent of the suffering population, will be spent mostly for food and other consumables, not so much for productive activities.
“Each week of ECQ in the National Capital Region will cost the economy P150 billion,” Chua said, adding that the lockdown will also increase the number of “poor people by up to 177,000 and 444,000 more without jobs.”
On the positive side, the NEDA chief said, “Putting Metro Manila under ECQ will be an investment to pave the way for a recovery once we control the Delta spread.”
With that avowed intention of keeping the economy as healthy and robust as the population, the lockdown may be justified despite the cruelty and the staggering costs that come with it.
The ECQ experiment – yes, it’s just an iffy experiment – seems to rest mainly on faith, hope, and charity: the Faith in those who presume to run our lives, the Hope that sustains the ever-patient Filipino, and the fake Charity of a system that collects P5 and serves back P2 to the taxpayer.
• We know enough of Delta to tame it?
WE WILL need mega-doses of the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity to swallow the lockdown advertised as “an investment to pave the way for a recovery once we control the Delta spread”.
When does the Duterte administration reasonably expect to stem the spread of the Delta variant that even now is wreaking havoc on the disease control and prevention programs of more advanced countries?
We are still waiting to get a good picture from our public health guardians of the speed and direction of the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which is just one of the many mutations of the coronavirus behind the pandemic.
Is our Philippine Genome Center that is saddled with tasks heaped on it by the pandemic, amply equipped and staffed for the task of rapidly sequencing all positive cases detected in the country?
Instead of looking for ways to curb the rampage of the variants, the House of Representatives has chosen to investigate the work of the academic-sector OCTA Research group of scientists as if congressmen had the expertise and the time for such an inquiry.
Our health department, meanwhile, looks busy counting its vaccine stock and reviewing how it has served favored clientele, while other countries – as they race with the variants – are already looking into the possible need for booster shots for those already fully vaccinated!
In the US, with waning enthusiasm for jabs among many Americans and with Delta and other variants raising infection rates, President Biden is considering circling back and requiring the wearing again of face masks even for fully vaccinated individuals in outdoor settings.
Maybe Biden should find time to call Duterte to ask for pointers on how to use policemen and civilian “force multipliers” toting guns and rattan sticks in stopping the spread of the veerus in the streets.
A call would give Duterte an opening, if he wants one, for personally saying thanks for the 3,000,060 doses of Moderna vaccine delivered Tuesday, and the 3.2 million doses of one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines in July.
Duterte can also say something nice this time about the US’s generosity in sharing its vaccine stockpile with developing countries — an initiative taken even as some 90 million Americans aged 12 and older have yet to receive one dose.