Here's what happens when people work together
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - August 7, 2020 - 12:00am

The global lockdowns that the coronavirus pandemic forced governments everywhere to clamp down on entire populations had the unintended effect of creating a sort of Catch-22 situation for everybody when it came time to eventually start easing up the lids on quarantines. You know, like getting caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea, or squeezed between a rock and a hard place.

 People cannot be locked down forever. Like water that cannot be compressed, it is only a matter of time before communities cooped up for too long will explode in a mad dash for freedom. But with the coronavirus still pretty much around, it makes for a very risky proposition. Then there is good old economy. It cannot stagnate forever as well. Businesses have to open or the economy fails. Then people die just the same. Slower, but same die.

This dilemma has sparked great, impassioned chicken-or-egg debates all over. Which takes precedence, people's safety or the economy? A few columns back, I wrote something about the need to be united, to be disciplined and stay focused behind what the leadership dictates. I did not realize that in a small geographical patch in our ravaged archipelago, something has been cooked and brewing toward this end.

I have heard of this only now, and only through a press release at that, having been stuck here in Leyte for what seems ages, and thus away from most things Cebu. But it seems that Michael Dino, the presidential assistant for the Visayas, has found a way for the government and the private sector to do both together --let people out and allow businesses to open, provided certain protocols are set and met to make everybody is safe and cared for.

The idea was given a name --Project Balik Buhay, PBB. I don't know how they translate it but I prefer to consider it as giving back our lives. Business representatives were brought on board, along with the mayors of Cebu City, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, Talsay, Consolacion, and Minglanilla and everyone committed to proceed on the road map everybody helped put together. As Dino said, the project is now everybody's.

The strategy involves strict compliance with health standards and protocols, aggressive and consistent community testing and tracing to identify and isolate areas of infection, and efficient maintenance and management of sufficient critical care facilities. With the hands of government full, the private sector is tapped to help in the fight.

To make reopened businesses become a safe environment for all, they must appoint a health infection and prevention control officer, have a statement of management responsibility, comply with latest IATF, government, and industry guidelines, and conduct random testing and tracing among workers. It goes without saying that the general public must be aware of their part in the bargain.

As if we can really move on without repeating, the virus is still very much out there. But we have begun to understand how it spreads and how to avoid getting infected. The PBB is an important road map indeed and thanks to those who willingly committed to put it together and to abide by it. But it will not work if the people for whom it was really made will not cooperate. Let us have faith in our leaders. They are also at risk like we are.

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