Corona concerns

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - April 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Throughout this quarantine confinement, many questions have been bubbling up in my cauldron of a mind (given the lockdown, there’s plenty of time to ruminate).

The immediate questions, are of course, answered daily. How many infected with the dreaded coronavirus. How many died today. How many have survived. What’s the grand total. Which is all well and good, but the numbers aren’t giving me a sense of progress.

I guess that’s what we Filipinos need. A progress report. Victories to hang on to. A source of comfort. A sense that this sacrifice, that we are all making collectively, is meaning something.

What’s our score for the day? How are we doing? Are we winning? What else is needed to win the war? And what is being done to get what we need?

Yeah, I get it. We need money. The finance guys have to raise money. Taxes have to be collected. Existing funds have to be realigned. The president may even need to sell off some assets. Sure, that is a given. But what’s going to be done with the money once we have it?

Is the focus of the government more dole-outs for longer periods? So that there is more cash for more displaced workers and breadwinners to buy more sustenance? Hopefully not, but that is the impression I am getting.

What is the grand plan? I see government facilities being converted to quarantine centers. There are talks of hotels being converted to temporary shelters. Importation restrictions of PPEs and medical supplies have been eased. All well and good, some concerns are being addressed. But can we at least have some assurance that all the concerns are being addressed? Ok, maybe we can even settle for “most” of the concerns.

For example, food security. Come on, government thinktanks. Is our supply chain really that secure? Are farmers going to get the fertilizers they need, and will livestock producers get the feeds they need? Will the tuna- and corned beef-in-cans producers get the tin cans they need? Will the canneries get the metal they need from abroad? And of course, will the produce of all of the above get that produce to the consumers?

Will we have enough rice? If we need to import, are the importations coming? For how long will those imports last? If Vietnam bans exports of its rice, where will we get our rice from? What’s Plan B?

If we lift the quarantine, what is finally going to be done about the transport mess? How will our workforce get to their jobs (assuming they have jobs left)? How will the minimum social distancing requirements be imposed?

Bus companies have convincingly demonstrated their inability to be controlled by government restrictions. The light rail mess has stubbornly refused to be solved. Government can’t make up its mind whether tricycles and pedicabs will be allowed. Will two riders be allowed on a motorcycle? What is the government doing now to address the absence of viable public transport methods? What experiments are they thinking about?

Is the government procuring bicycles for everyone? Is government commanding motorcycle manufacturers to rev up production and then, it will distribute hundreds of thousands of bikes to all households? (I don’t really advocate that. I’m just wondering).

Much like our daily multi-vitamins that we’ve been obsessively gulping down, we need daily updates. Rational, sober nuggets, easily digestible, infinitely reassuring. Make easy-on-the-eye infographics if you wish, snappy sound bites, even Twitter posts. Just get out there and assure the public that the problem is being tackled, province to province, hospital to hospital, patient by patient.

Wartime fireside chats come to mind. And yes, this is a war.

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