EDITORIAL - Proceed with caution
EDITORIAL - Proceed with caution
(The Philippine Star) - May 30, 2020 - 12:00am

After 11 weeks of enhanced community quarantine, restrictions will finally be eased as the National Capital Region shifts to a general community quarantine on June 1. A key component of the shift from ECQ to GCQ in the NCR, epicenter of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic in the country, is the return of public transportation.

Alongside the start of the GCQ on Monday is the beginning of enrollment in public schools for the 2020-2021 academic year. While only remote enrollment will be allowed for two weeks, many teachers are expected to report for work in their schools to handle the task.

Under the GCQ, train services will resume operations together with point-to-point buses, taxis, transport network service vehicles, shuttles and bicycles. The operation of tricycles will be at the discretion of local government units. This first phase of the transport plan will be in place until June 21. Regular buses, modern jeepneys and UV Express will be allowed only during the second phase from June 22 to 30.

President Duterte, who announced the transition to GCQ for Metro Manila, said he wanted the country to move toward the new normal. The economy is contracting and millions of Filipinos are falling into poverty as a result of quarantine measures adopted to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The delicate balancing act between lives and livelihoods will continue for a long time, until a cure or vaccine for the coronavirus becomes widely available worldwide. The easing of quarantine restrictions to restart faltering economies should leave no room for complacency. Easing into GCQ should not mean easing of public health protocols that have been in place since mid-March, including physical distancing, wearing of face masks in public, and installation of sanitation facilities for regular handwashing and dispensing alcohol.

The GCQ should also be complemented by additional efforts to expand the country’s capabilities for COVID testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment. Even as the easing of restrictions is supported by those who stress the importance of preserving economic health, there is general agreement that the capabilities for dealing with the pandemic remain inadequate.

Even with the easing of quarantine measures, the public must be constantly reminded that the virus is still out there, waiting for new hosts to debilitate and even kill.

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