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‘Steep’

While government handles the ayuda to protect the people, it must at the same time work to improve on the country’s systems towards a future where health threats will not necessarily call for another lockdown that seriously puts a dent in our economy.

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This was how an epidemiology expert described the rise in Covid-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) within the last week or so.

She might as well have been stating the kind of trek our country faces should government keep imposing lockdowns after this latest one.

Before the Duterte administration decided on whether to bring back the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), there were discussions on whether the country would be able to survive — economically — another hard lockdown.

According to Socioeconomic Planning Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon in a Teleradyo interview with Christian Esguerra on Wednesday, “the risks and costs of having a lockdown were considered” before the ECQ return was imposed.

To lockdown or not to lockdown, that was the question.

After all those imagined ferocious debates, government decided it would be for the best to try and control this beast of a virus “early on.”

This last bit alone is a matter of contention as the Department of Health (DoH) is perceived as being way too relaxed about reimposing restrictions. If the speed of action were to be the gauge, no one could accuse the DoH of being a perpetrator in that race.

Quicker action from non-government agencies and the private sector had mainly helped Filipinos survive the pandemic thus far. The spirit of bayanihan had come through for our people, in this sense, but how long can it go on?

It is not only a question of budget, but a mindset that needs further recalibration in order to move forward into a world that will never be the same again.

Just this week, infections had played around the 8,000 a day record, registering the highest numbers since May of this year. The provinces are also experiencing the beginnings of what NCR went through in the first flush of this pandemic. The prospects are troubling.

Delta is already here, and it is demanded of the government to provide quick action to control a spread that could overwhelm our healthcare system. There is no other recourse at this point.
Still, the question begs an answer: Can we afford it?

Countries around the world are experiencing a similar surge in cases driven by the Delta variant, even those that had managed the health crisis better than most.

The Philippines, while acknowledged by experts as having a “resilient” economy, may not be able to survive the indeterminate length of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as other pandemics that could shake the world.

Dean Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government, in the same interview, emphasized that “Delta is not the only variant we are facing.” Therefore, he said, it should not be “a race of vaccination,” but that government must “set up a test, trace and treat system” because “we cannot keep locking down every time a new variant comes along.”

This latest ECQ that will last for two weeks will cost the NCR some P210 billion based on the previous ECQ, said Edillon.

The cost to the economy, one might say, is steep — something that most people barely acknowledge but feel down to the grassroots as businesses halt and livelihoods are severely affected.
This is why said experts recommend “putting this time to good use.”

In other words, while government handles the ayuda to protect the people, it must at the same time work to improve on the country’s systems towards a future where health threats will not necessarily call for another lockdown that seriously puts a dent in our economy.

For their part, citizens must work on their mindset — time to “retool, re-skill,” or learn to get into other ways of making a living because, lockdown or no lockdown, the way out of this pandemic, as Undersecretary Edillon so rightly put it, “is to get used to the new normal.”

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