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Freeze spins for now

When the restrictions are relaxed, the participation of the citizens will be crucial to maintain the gains over the lethal virus.




One of the biggest letdowns of those trying to win public notice, obviously for the coming polls, is their instigation of a tug of war in the relaxing of health restrictions, when the battle against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) can only be won when the whole country pulls together as one against the blight.

President Rodrigo Duterte has made it clear that the government position should be based on the consensus of health experts, which gets more weight than the clamor from the business sector.
Detractors are now making it appear that an overall plan is absent and that a hit-and-miss policy is in effect.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, however, said a delicate balancing act is being undertaken to find the right measure of containing the spread of the virus while keeping the economy kicking.

Opponents of the administration have an easy time in spinning the recession as a mishandling of the situation, since the economy was moving at a consistent speed and was hailed before the pandemic as among the healthiest in the world.

Comparatively, the 9.5 percent contraction in the past year was the worst in Asia. In the world, only some countries, such as Peru, had a worse performance.

Former National Economic and Development Authority chief Ernesto Pernia recently indicated the reopening of the economy should have been faster which, in turn, could have avoided the deep recession.

Since Pernia is outside the decision-making circle, he is not privy to the debates that have happened among health and economic officials, which based on Lopez’s description were often fierce.

Since November, the economic team pushed for the relaxing of the status to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) that would have allowed the resumption of most recreation facilities, which absorbed the heaviest impact of the community restrictions.

“We (economic team) believe that we had a formula, but since it was the advice of the experts for a measured opening, we waited, but based on the experience last December when family get-togethers were frequent, we did not experience a spike in the numbers of infected in January or February. So, I think we are at a point for gradual reopening,” Lopez said.

Maintaining the quarantine status for Metro Manila, nonetheless, allowed the government to buy time to increase the number of hospital rooms for the treatment of those afflicted with Covid-19, particularly with the emergence of the new variant.

It was in December that the mutations of the pathogen were discovered, thus Lopez said the new development was made part of the equation that further delayed plans for a reopening.

He explained that the strict order of the President was to monitor the new variant, but two months have passed and the situation was managed to below 2,000 cases of transmissions per day.

A full reopening where the youth, who make up the majority of the population are allowed to venture out of their homes, is considered necessary since many retail establishments have either closed or are on the brink of collapse.

When the restrictions are relaxed, the participation of the citizens will be crucial to maintain the gains over the lethal virus.

It would be another leap, which even in simulation, the outcome of which would be hard to predict.

Requirements remain basic — keep the distance, wear a mask and a face shield and wash your hands thoroughly, however.

Those simple routines never miss.