The new normal
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2020 - 12:00am

This past week has felt like a nightmare. A long nightmare. The kind that you hope you wake up from when you open your eyes in the morning. Unfortunately, whenever you wake up, you realize that the nightmare is real. I’m sure this is how most Filipinos feel as the events of the last few days unfolded. I know that’s how we felt.

I have been writing about how the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 has been impacting the world for a couple of weeks now — from shutting down events to enhanced hand washing and stricter hygiene measures. All of that seems miniscule now compared to the steps our government and our country has had to take in the wake of the sudden spike and spread of the virus in the country — specifically in Metro Manila.

We had a feeling this was going to happen the moment the first few cases were recorded. This came on the heels of the repatriation or arrival of overseas Filipinos and testing positive. Once that started, we recorded several cases here. Pretty soon we recorded cases of people testing positive without having any travel history and no known exposure to the virus. That’s when things started going downhill.

From that point on it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the rolling boulder hit us all. That happened last week when President Duterte first announced that he would place Metro Manila under community lockdown.To face the virus containment problem head on, the government prompted individuals to remain at home to help stop the fast spread of the virus. During this time all mass gathering have ben cancelled, most stores are closed, unnecessary travel in and out of Metro Manila has been suspended.

It is a bitter pill to swallow. Especially for those who work and earn a living. They were immediately faced with the dilemma of staying home and trying not to get sick or spread sickness or going to work to help pay their bills and feed their families. It’s a rock and a hard place. There aren’t many in Metro Manila, or in the country in general, who have enough savings and can afford to not work for a month or more depending on how this unfolds.

Of course after the announcement, both the panic and the panic buying ensued. People flocked to groceries and markets and began buying up the stocks on the shelves. Even though the government allowed for (minimal) supply runs, people were still scared. It was like a war zone. But we eventually got over the weekend and, for the most part, people hunkered down.

Then Monday hit and we saw what it was going to be like with limited transportation options and social distancing. The commuting public was caught off guard (no matter how early they left) and hundreds of people were left squished and walking the streets trying to get to work. This made it painfully obvious that the community quarantine — as it was — was not going to work.

So the nightmare continues and the government has to announce an enhanced community quarantine with even stricter measures and covering a larger area. This would mean that a lot more people would lose work because companies were being urged to close for the duration or provide their own transportation for workers as public transportation would be shut down. More worries followed this proclamation, and more panic buying.

That leads us to where we are today. We are at 142 cases. There are more people under suspicion and more people to back trace and test. I hope that in this time that everything has virtually grinded to a halt the government and local government units can really buckle down and do their jobs. Get people tested when needed, give people the support they need and deserve, and find a way to make it through the madness of this new normal.

As for the rest of us, we have to obey. All of our lives are at stake. We are facing something we have never faced before and the outcome is still unclear. All of this would have been for nothing if we disregard the safety measures they are trying to implement and continue to go out and spread our germs. Now, more than ever before, we need to work together and get ourselves out of this mess.

I’m thankful for everyone doing what they can to make life bearable and survivable in this crisis. The whole government — president, mayors, and all who are doing their best to make tough decisions and implement them. The army and police on the streets that are policing the people instead of being home with their families. The media doing their best to keep everyone properly informed and connected. The workers in the supermarkets and drugstores who would like to go home, but can’t because everyone is buying supplies. Those providing essential services who are watching everyone else go home and praying they do not get sick. The scientists working around the clock to find a vaccine and cure. And, most of all, our heroic frontline health care workers — the doctors, nurses, and caregivers who are battling this enemy on the frontlines and trying to save us all.

It’s going to be a long month for everyone. For now, this is our new normal. Let’s stay home, work together, and pray hard. Hopefully, we come out better for it on the other side.

COVID-19
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