On 22 February, there were reportedly 25 countries infected with the COVID-19 virus. It was initially labeled as an epidemic although its unstoppable exponential spread was already worrisome. As of 24 March, the virus has infected 195 countries and territories across the globe. With more than 379,000 infected cases and over 16,500 fatalities worldwide, the coronavirus has become a deadly pandemic.
The whole world, the Philippines included, has taken extreme measures, calling for a community quarantine and gingerly avoiding to call it a lockdown. But what’s in a name as the Bard asked? The declaration of a lockdown is just a semantic away from martial law and virtually imprisoned millions of citizens in their homes. Initial public resistance against the order for home detention gradually diminished as citizens understood the urgency of the measure to contain the pandemic.
Business operations and many human activities are halted and traditional social protocols may take longer to revive if they are not forever altered due to the lingering fear of COVID-19. Handshakes, beso-beso, hugging, the traditional Filipino “mano po,” and whispering gossip or sweet nothings to someone’s ear are now universally proscribed and considered life-threatening gestures. It is an irony that these intimate expressions of family kinship, love, friendship and camaraderie are now left only to the wild beasts and insects, if one watches cable TV’s Nat Geo Wild and Animal Planet.
On the economic level, the 30-day temporary shutdown has nearly stopped production and administrative work and has impacted industries with a breathtaking magnitude far worse than the 2008 global financial meltdown.
On a personal level, the first week of self-detention at home has driven many families to engage in panic buying. The citizen’s fear and anxiety are aggravated by a slew of fake news in social media and from rumormongers, desperation in watching the seeming failure of science to find a cure and vaccine, and the chaotic implementation of border control on the first day of implementation. The specter of the grim outcome of shuttered businesses, lost jobs and the attendant spike in the poverty level present a herculean challenge for both public and private sectors.
Some cynics and those who are paranoid scare themselves and others with self-inflicted harm by spreading through social media that the lockdown may be extended longer than the 12 April deadline but not publicly admitted by authorities to avoid stoking panic among the citizens.
But there are upsides in this “house arrest.” Many of us detained at home are rediscovering the joys of family bonding. It has given us time to reflect on what really matters in our lives, appreciate the value of things we have taken for granted for so long, and awaken us to our many vulnerabilities. More importantly, the pandemic has strengthened our belief, our hope and our faith that God will soon reveal His healing presence, and in His infinite mercy and love, deliver us from all these.
Meanwhile in the battlefront against COVID-19 and hidden from public view is the army of many unknown frontline health warriors and border security forces who risk their lives and abandon their family duties to contain the virus and protect the citizens of this country. Their task is no less honorable than the army soldiers in a shooting war defending our country from foreign invasion. These COVID-19 fighters, the gallant patriotic men and women, when infected, are quarantined alone and lonely in a place far away from their loved ones.
The entire nation salutes these heroes and hopefully, at the end of this ordeal, they will be properly honored and financially rewarded for their selfless sacrifice.
Amid all these, one must always remember that the world has survived centuries of pestilence, plagues, pandemics, extreme wrath of nature, wars and the big flood. With Divine Providence and mankind’s resilience, COVID-19 will come to pass and a new lively world is waiting for all of us.