We have all argued over what to prioritize: “Lives versus Livelihood?” and we have always compromised by letting APORs or Authorized Persons Outside Residence to go out and earn a living whether they are vaccinated or not. We allow APORs to go in and out of Metro Manila as part of their movement between work and home. All this time, health experts have been raising the alarm that there is the Delta variant that is 60 percent more transmissible than the original virus.
In the meantime, in the government’s attempt of a balancing act to protect Lives & Livelihoods, life goes on in many parts of the country until we hear of “super spreader” events such as the discovery last Monday that over 25 crew members of a ferry boat servicing Caticlan-Batangas City all tested positive for COVID-19. What’s worse is that the discovery was only made after the ship had offloaded 77 passengers at the Batangas City port.
Even before the declaration of the recent ECQ for Metro Manila, we witnessed a super spreader event when 51 COVID-19 positive policemen were deployed as crowd control force at Commonwealth Avenue. Prior to that incident, some of you may recall the news reports about a tug boat and a barge that traveled from Indonesia to Butuan to Albay, after which local health authorities discovered that crew members were COVID positive but not before one crew member had disembarked at Butuan City and took a motorbike ride towards Zamboanga.
Whether we are under enhanced community quarantine or not, all these incidents point to the fact that our numerous attempts at quarantine or lockdowns are full of holes! Local and national authorities go tough on barangay officials and residents for lapses in health protocols but fail to be proactive and strict when it comes to their personnel and areas of concern.
Yesterday morning, it was announced that the Metro Manila Council of mayors agreed to ban outdoor exercises as part of the ECQ measures, public response was swift as people questioned the logic in allowing APORs to commute all over the NCR and beyond but disallow people from taking walks, jogging or biking in front of their homes or within their village or barangay?
The very idea of having an APOR category during ECQ in my opinion defeats the idea and definition of a lockdown. When government officials announced the need for a two-week lockdown due to the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19, many of us thought it would be an honest to goodness lockdown with minimal movement and mobility, highlighted by granular quarantine measures over a 14-day period. What essentially defeats the solution is the compromise solution of having APORs during a “hard lockdown.” Just look at all the queues and traffic created by checkpoints or the crowds of 5 to 7 thousand people that flocked to vaccination sites due to fake news.
I fully understand the need to balance policies and rules between “Lives & Livelihoods” and I understand that government and the private sector want to take advantage of the 14-day “lockdown” to inoculate as many people as possible. But having several hundred thousand people traveling to and from work or vaccination centers contradicts the definition and intent of a lockdown.
This odd and risky situation persists or is tolerated because the government has never really developed or worked out an actual plan or program on how a lockdown should be done. By this I mean something that officials can pull down from a computer and it will show reasons for a lockdown, steps and timetables, pre-positioned contingency funds, designated manpower and government agencies that will implement or compliment the strict observance of the lockdown, a communications template for public address or information, etc.
The government already has disaster management plans for events such as typhoons, droughts and earthquakes that are yet to come or that happen on a seasonal basis, why not come up with a “Lockdown Plan” given the reality that COVID-19 and its variants have been with us for a year and a half and will undoubtedly be with us for much longer if we do not come up with correct tools and use them properly. The idea of deciding on a lockdown only when it’s too late or when the surge is here defies logic and crisis management.
Everything is rushed, there are never sufficient funds and ayuda always comes late and sometimes after the lockdown is finished. As I listened to announcements of Metro Manila mayors, they were all talking about having to upgrade their list of recipients because some people may have moved away, did not initially want the ayuda but are now in need or there are new residents in their city. This proves that much of the data and statistical updating in Metro Manila and all over the country is still done manually or on a need basis instead of being done monthly or quarterly.
Going back to our APOR-calypse, it is evident that the Aug. 6 to Aug. 20 lockdown is compromised by continued movement of people and so far our quarantine history in the Philippines is a plain and simple vicious cycle. We don’t need soothsayers to tell us that the ECQ will be extended by at least another week or two, and if the COVID-19 Delta variant is more widespread than suspected, sorry but we have not seen the last of the ECQs. We either do it right, because by insisting on doing it wrong, we are simply making matters worse and more painful for those who suffer loss of jobs, money or lives.
As Albert Einstein said: “Repeating a mistake over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.”
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