This is article was originally published with the title, “Not a lockdown, it’s spilled milk” at Daily Guardian.
January 30, 2020 – It is probably a date our immune systems would never forget. The first case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was confirmed in the Philippines. It was in 38-year-old Chinese from Wuhan in Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China, the ground zero or the former epicenter (now Italy), who arrived in Manila from Hong Kong on January 21. On March 14, 2020 or 53 days after the first confirmed case, marks the confirmation of the 98th case in the Philippines.
Just a few days ago, a community quarantine was announced by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for the entirety of Metro Manila. Late evening of March 12, the announcement, which was spreading like wildfire on social media as early as mid-afternoon of that day, was made official by the President himself. The quarantine will be between March 15 to April 14.
As we are nearing the suspension of all means of transport going in and out of the area at midnight of March 15, people are now panicking to go home to the provinces. They may only either come home safe and sound or bring a Trojan horse to their communities.
With families in mind and probably the fear of being in a locked up metropolis, it can only be logical to think of leaving the Metro. But if done carelessly, it can lead to more problems that even the now struggling government could not handle.
Community quarantines will be in store based on the President’s pronouncement for provinces who will have at least two confirmed cases. Considering this standard protocol taking effect while the Philippines had no case at all and assuming Metro Manila is counted as one province, the community quarantine should have been in place as early as February 2 wherein a second case was confirmed in Manila. Why did the government have to wait that long for Metro Manila to be heavily battered by the virus and release those guidelines or directives?
Given the extent of cases in Metro Manila, and the number of persons eager to leave, a steep rise in confirmed cases is expected in the coming days. Be prepared. Uncertainty and insecurity will only prosper as a big number of people from Manila or with travel histories in Manila notwithstanding heavily infected countries come home, a homecoming most would not be excited about.
The Philippines had more home-court advantage than most first-world countries but it took things differently and for granted.
Had the government declared February 2nd as the community quarantine commencement date, people would have panicked earlier. Borders would have closed earlier. Stocks of alcohol would have declined quite earlier. Yes, there would have still been panics and hysterias. The only difference is that the management of cases would have been easier for healthcare professionals as well as the government that already turned over the key of responsibility to the Department of Health when it was already too late.
The Philippines is an archipelago, not like the other countries with thousands of cases. It would have easily controlled its borders.
The best doctors are here; in fact, the Philippines export a lot of doctors. With that amount of competence, COVID-19 management here would have become a potential model for other countries as well. Even the University of the Philippines was able to develop a test kit to pave the way for faster confirmation of COVID-19 infection. Going back to the argument of a February 2nd community quarantine, UP could have taken advantage of the extra time for the World Health Organization to evaluate and provide recommendations for the test kits while it is being challenged by some politicians.
The only solution left is vigilance and personal hygiene like washing of hands. As most Filipinos are falling prey to their loved ones and the importance of their company, only social distancing is left. What can only be done now is to be self-accountable of the risks that are taken as life goes on. Otherwise, we’re all goners.