Finding grace in the freefall
BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2020 - 12:00am

There has never been a time in recent years when so many questions about the future have been raised. When will this lockdown end? What harm really is the coronavirus capable of doing to people? Will science be able to find a cure? What’s in store for all of us?

Our concerns may be as basic as the man-on-the-street’s fear of not having food for the next meal (being in quarantine) or as multifarious as scientists’ or economists’ graphs and charts that try to read the future of humanity as the pandemic rages.

The angst that many of us may now feel going into the third week of lockdown has become more real as we realize that social distancing, frequent hand washing, douses of alcohol and sanitizers, and face masks have become the indispensable norm to living safely.

Thanks to the Internet (and our warriors in the media), we’re still able to mine news about what is happening outside the confines of our homes, albeit seemingly not as abundant as the pre-pandemic era. Still, we are thankful about anything that may answer our questions.

Cost of saving lives

One of the biggest debates going on is how long this lockdown should last. Affected countries are opening up state coffers to deal with the dislocation brought about by the virus spread, and the amounts are often staggering even for developed economies like the United States.

The objective most of the time is saving lives while keeping the economy afloat. Daily statistics of reported cases and deaths are used as a guide to calibrating responses through social interventions and financial stimuli.

Scientists with their epidemiological models are primarily concerned about a curve that would reflect the impact on lives lost and saved, depending on such palpable factors as a resurgence of infection and the ability of health care systems to respond.

They say that a flattened curve, where the virus spread is prolonged, would save more lives – and ultimately, may prevent a new round of the pandemic as more people become immune to the virus. A sharp curve, on the other hand, would mean more deaths, but may not prevent another outbreak when the flu season resurfaces at the end of the year.

Economists are concerned that a flat curve may mean huge costs for the country, not only during the lockdown, but even for the rest of the year and going through to 2021. The latest prognosis by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is for negative growth in the next two quarters, resulting in an economic growth of only three percent this year compared to 5.9 percent last year.

The World Bank has even flagged the Philippines as among the countries in the East Asia Pacific region where its financial system is vulnerable to external shocks given the fact that the private sector has grown its debt faster compared to the rest of the world.

These worries have definitely weighed on our government’s decision to extend the proposed lockdown (or enhanced community quarantine) after April 14 to April 30. Nothing is sure if this new date will be the end.

Healing in the time of pandemic

Meanwhile, this week is significant to Christian Filipinos as they reflect on their faith in observance of the Lenten season. It is a time of prayer and meditation, but the call for quarantine means many religious traditions, like the Visita Iglesia, will have to be set aside for now.

An article in the Oprah magazine featured an author of a prose poem going viral on the Internet. “In the Time of Pandemic,” by Catherine M. O’Meara, was first published in her blog (The Daily Round) last March 16, although it has been falsely attributed to a dead poet who lived in the early 1900s.

In the article, O’Meara says she is not an expert in dealing with this global crisis. Rather, she says, she is just another person trying to find grace in the freefall. I share with you her piece.

“And the people stayed home.

“And they read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.

“And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

“And the people healed.

“And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Let us be healed.

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