Can’t afford another lockdown?

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - April 7, 2021 - 12:00am

Once again, the Duterte administration and its talking heads are singing one familiar line: “The government cannot afford another extended lockdown.” Tell that to the COVID-19 virus and its minions namely the UK Variant, South African variant and P3 or the Philippine variant. Viruses don’t look at economic data, checkbooks, GDP or credit ratings. These merchants of death simply go about looking for unsuspecting hosts to steal, kill and destroy. To say that the country or the government can no longer afford an extended lockdown in order to fight COVID-19 and save lives is as stupid as it gets! Thousands of Filipino families are currently facing economic and financial ruin because of a loved one in the ICU or COVID ward of some hospital somewhere in the country.

Ask them: Can you afford the P1,000 per hour stay at a triage tent? Can you afford the P750,000 that a congressman paid for four days in the hospital? Can you afford the P5 million that a friend’s family spent for one month in the ICU only to lose their dad? Can you afford P50 million that a known personality in Pampanga spent just to survive his one and a half month battle with COVID? Every Filipino now fighting will answer you “I don’t know how, but I will do everything to save my loved one.”

So now may I ask those government officials who keep saying they can’t afford another lockdown: Why not? Don’t you care for the Filipino people enough to do whatever it takes and whatever it costs to fight COVID-19 and save lives?

By the way, whose money are we spending and who is paying for whatever debts the Duterte administration is getting into? Di ba kami? Isn’t it “We” the people, the Filipinos? It makes me want to puke at these people who have the gall to talk about the need to carry on with “Build Build Build” projects and the 2022 projected budget of P5 trillion, while many of us are resorting to selling cars, lots, homes and starting go-fund-me efforts to help ourselves and our friends pay for hospital bills. In civilized company you do not talk about business or expense while people around you are suffering or in mourning. You either put up or shut up.

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Speaking of “putting up,” many people I have managed to speak with on the phone or online have expressed two common sentiments.

The first is their on the ground observation that today’s COVID is far more infectious and deadly than last year. People often tell me how sad they feel every time they hear of a friend or someone landing in the hospital with COVID because “it feels like it’s a 50-50 possibility between life and death.” While those infected fight the battle, the rest of us spend restless days and sleepless nights worrying for the sick and fearful of getting sick ourselves.

My personal assessment is that our problem is the result of government health officials and communicators who have persisted on taming, calming and reassuring the public that the government is in control and that we can confidently win the war against COVID-19. Late in 2020 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson publicly confirmed the existence of the UK variant and that it was more contagious and deadlier than the regular COVID-19 virus. When I shared this with a health official, he dismissed the matter as lacking in-depth studies and was too early to confirm. What followed was the surge we now know.

Ironically, in spite of many claims that the UK, SA & Brazil variants are already spreading havoc in the country, the highest health officials kept countering by saying it was not that widespread, etc., etc., etc. Instead of cultivating a HEALTHY FEAR for a DEADLY enemy, government officials blamed Filipinos for being “pasaway.”

We are where we are because the government pretended to be in control and led us all towards a false sense of control. Only now are we realizing COVID-19 is no respecter of men. Maybe that’s why more men get hit by COVID!

The other commonly expressed sentiment that may no longer come as a surprise is the opinion of many that the country should go through a 30-day TOTAL LOCKDOWN or, in the present case, add two more weeks to the current two-week ECQ but make the additional two weeks a total lockdown – as in nobody is allowed outside, not even for essentials. Give people enough time to prepare, stock up on meds, etc., but on days 16 to 30 all gates closed and all streets empty without exemptions, not even for essentials.

Aside from this sentiment, a good number of people have shared the belief that the legendary political will of the Duterte administration seems to have faltered in this aspect. Either the business sector and economic managers are preventing the radical solution or the administration is too worried about political backfire if the government imposes a one-time big-time offensive against COVID-19.

Whatever the case may be, it is clear that people are fed-up, sick and tired or desperate enough to make such a big sacrifice as long as they can be convinced that total lockdown will work, that there is a plan and procedure for everyone to see, read, understand and follow along with a timeline, a way of checking if things are going as planned and results actually meeting expectations.

Last but not the least that anyone who violates, even the President of the Philippines, will be penalized. This is about saving lives, no longer about politics.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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