A compromise
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - August 5, 2020 - 12:00am

As Sunday was quietly passing into the night, President Duterte ordered Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan to be placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from Aug. 4-18. A cabinet meeting was held to discuss the request of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) to place Metro Manila under ECQ since the number of COVID-19 cases was already overwhelming and the medical frontliners are exhausted. A "time out" of sorts to give the frontliners some rest and for "authorities to re-group and fine-tune pandemic control measures." If the current rate of positive cases continues, hospitals and frontliners may no longer be able to cope.

President Duterte listened to their request, although he opted to place the above-mentioned areas under MECQ, and not the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) which was what the doctors were asking. He also berated the doctors for not directly asking him instead of using the media, which he found demeaning, something I believe the doctors did not deserve. Such a thankless job. The number of positive cases as of this writing stands at 106,330. Record daily highs seem to keep on happening. According to a doctor friend, the hospital looks like a war-zone. Now that MECQ is back, Metro Manila goes into a semi-lockdown. The usual groceries, supermarkets, and drugstores remain open, but so are non-leisure businesses and services but with fifty percent of their customer capacity allowed. Some bank branches remain open. Public transportation is again halted. Tourism once again grinds to a halt. Barbershops, spas, parlors, gyms, and dine-in at restaurants are forbidden. Any mass gathering will also be cited. I'm not sure if curfew hours would be extended. I guess that depends on the different local governments.

I believe placing Metro Manila under MECQ was a compromise. The doctors wanted an ECQ where all businesses except the essential ones are closed. The idea was to get people back into their homes to prevent the virus from latching on to people. But the business sector along with the concerned government agencies like the DTI was very vocal against another lockdown, stating the economy would not recover from it. Wage-dependent employees were likewise against the idea. It remains to be seen if another round of financial aid would be given to the deserving.

UP experts project the MECQ would reduce infections by about 50,000. My prayer is it does. Many were forced to economically sacrifice once again. The number and rate of positive cases since undergoing GCQ cannot be ignored. The Philippines is not alone in dealing with a surge in cases since opening the economy. Many countries experienced a similar surge and have implemented their lockdown procedures. The head of the WHO has already warned "there is no silver bullet at the moment and there may never be". This is disconcerting even as companies race to develop a vaccine to ultimately rid the planet of the coronavirus. Some are already conducting clinical trials. We can only hope and wait they get it right. 

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