Limbo land
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - June 28, 2020 - 12:00am

My condo neighbor is in a coronavirus quandary. He’s an American, and his wife just gave birth to a boy. Now he’s waiting for the US Embassy to issue his son a passport so he can, well, he doesn’t know exactly.

He doesn’t know what he’ll do after, truth be told. He doesn’t know how he can leave the country or which airline he can take. He might be qualified to fly on the evacuation flights the US Embassy has been arranging for its nationals, but he doesn’t know when that will be possible.

The embassy hasn’t committed on when it can start printing passports and when therefore he can expect his son to get his. He suspects there is some sinister plot to delay the movement of travelers from the Philippines and other high-risk countries into America (ironically itself a high-risk country at the moment).

Meanwhile, he walks about the streets with his son in tow, meandering through the business and shopping areas of BGC while the baby gurgles in fascination. Fortunately, with the relaxation of quarantine measures, there are more stores open, people to see, and treats to enjoy, and some bars even serve alcohol to reckless expats who spit at each other in a fog of inebriation.

All these developments don’t obscure the fact, however, that his life is, like all of ours, in limbo. After nearly four months of lockdown, we are by no means closer to getting our country out of this hellhole. And the economic and political managers to whom we’ve entrusted our lives, even with all the powers and substantial resources we’ve given them, don’t seem to have brought us any closer to deliverance.

No one knows when schools will open for physical classes. No one has a clue when airports will admit tourists, or allow nationals to flee the ineptitude. No one can guess as to when public transportation will be allowed to operate, so ordinary citizens can eke out a living.

I want to know when I can appreciate the smile of a friend without wondering if I should tell him to cover his mouth. I want to watch a live sports match up close, and cheer and jeer without being afraid of my seatmate’s spittle. I want to bask in the warmth of conversation and laughter, without fearing whether I’m bringing home microbial invaders. I know that isn’t anywhere near, so I guess I should settle for something more realistic.

Confirmation that we have adequate quantities of PPEs? Safety net measures in place, so we can be assured anarchy won’t engulf us? Checks in the mail (so to speak), food security, or even bridge loans awaiting the correct recipients?

Heck, that’s the future. We don’t even know what the present is. What are the real numbers? How many infected, for real? How many dead, for sure? What’s the real testing capacity? How are the contact tracing efforts of the government doing? Are they resourced enough? Are they successful in containing possible suspect cases?

If our civil servants can’t get a grip on what’s facing them today, how will we know when we can look forward to grappling with the future?

A family friend who lives in Mactan Island just appealed for help. Her sick relative needs hospital care, but is wait-listed in several medical facilities, as these institutions are full to beyond capacity. She is number 72 in one hospital, and number 39 in another.

I had thought that the flatten-the-curve measures were designed to ease the demand for medical resources. Meanwhile, government will be building COVID facilities and quarantine centers, what with the billions in released funds they could deploy. What happened to all that? Four months down the road, my friend is waiting and praying for a spot to open in a hospital.

Just like the rest of us, it’s wait. And wait. And wait. No see.

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