Living under ‘new normal’

>> Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Alfred P. Dizon

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Our neighborhood perennially drunk philosopher says government officials just don’t get it when it comes to living under the “new normal” and managing the threat of Covid-19 pandemic.
    His simplistic solution: Enough with these unreasonable lockdowns and restrictions. The economy needs to be put on track by opening businesses and returning jobs. People are hungry due to lack of jobs, hampered livelihood and travel. For those who want the vaccine, fine. But for heaven’s sake, let’s get on with life and do things we used to do. We only need precaution. 
We know the minimum standards to observe to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the dreaded disease—washing hands frequently, carrying a bottle of alcohol or disinfectant, wearing face masks and face shields if needed and avoiding unnecessary physical contacts.
    It is largely all up to us, really.
    Maybe we should include in the Covid-19 scoreboard the number of Filipinos dying of hunger daily, being unable to buy food due to unemployment or unaffordable prices of food and commodities. 
    This is not a choice between life and livelihood. People may not die of Covid-19 but of hunger. 
    We have for one year somehow learned to live with Covid-19. But when government officials impose irrational rules and restrictions on us poor folks to hamper the spread of Covid-19, so they say, and get more mind-boggling government funds for their programs, then there is something wrong.   
We live in La Trinidad. Our philosopher says every day, people are lining up along the road to get a ride. Public utility vehicles should not have been restricted and lessened so people can reach their destinations faster.
    You lessen PUJs, people suffer. There is no more social distancing in jeeps since there are a few of them plying the streets. Passengers are cramped and only separated by a thin cellophane sheet. With more jeeps, there should be more space for physical distancing. Whoever coined the terms “social distancing” deserves to be shot, he adds.
    Border control should have been eased, he says. His observation: People converge in hospitals, clinics and municipal halls to get medical certificates and may get Covid-19 in the process. They present such documents like IDs to cops holding sticks at borders like we are wayward children
Everybody is suffering because of restrictions. A lot of money was spent springing stranded foreign tourists from beach resorts but thousands of locally stranded Filipinos suffered and some died on the streets from hunger or illnesses because of border restrictions. 
    This, while the corruption-ridden P180-billion Social Amelioration Program (SAP) did very little to alleviate impact of the pandemic crisis on the poor, many of whom did not receive even an amount for a kilo of rice.
This time, the National Economic and Development Authority said relaxing to MGCQ status throughout the country will boost economic recovery with resumption of more businesses and return of more workers to their jobs. 
    Apparently, government economists are banking on impending arrival of Covid-19 vaccines even if people are apprehensive of getting injections particularly that Chinese vaccine which is priced way up to high heavens as compared to those lower priced from other countries with high efficacy rates.
    The country relaxing to MGCQ needs a calculating and ingenious balancing act that government agencies and local government units would implement. 
    If approved by President Duterte upon recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the success of MGCQ will depend on everyone’s cooperation.
The high rate of recoveries of Covid-19 patients is encouraging despite absence of vaccines.
    The total number of Covid-19 patients reached 553, 424, including 11,577 deaths as of Feb. 17, basing from figures of the Philippine Information Agency.
    At the start of the pandemic last year, without immediate mass testing, the lockdown instead contributed to the transmission of Covid-19 in crowded communities like the mining community of Itogon in Benguet. 
    We don’t want people to get the disease at the workplace. But not everyone can work from home like the vendors of Baguio some of whom have been harassed by arrogant members of the POSD.
We do not allow school children to return to the classrooms to avoid possible Covid-19 transmission among the kids but the IATF allows children to travel to crowded tourist spots like Boracay.
    In Baguio at press time, we got a report from Aileen P. Refuerzo, city information office chief saying children below 15 and adults over 65 of age are now allowed to engage in permitted activities including tourism-related ones based on executive order 10 series of 2021 (Prescribing general community quarantine guidelines) which took effect Feb. 1.
    One can now avail of goods or services, medical attention and report for work in permitted industries if you are in said age groups under the GCQ rules of the city.
    Our philosopher says, oh well. Children don’t usually work while the 65-years old and above are usually retired.
    Anyhow, according to the advisory, minors below 15 years old must be accompanied by parents or guardians at all times.     They are not allowed to enter enclosed crowded places such as groceries, markets, supermarkets, cinemas and similar premises where the number of persons exceeds more than 30 percent of the place's capacity, according to the advisory.
    These people whether residents or tourists are allowed to enter public parks, playgrounds and other open spaces with their parents and guardians. 
Anyhow, folks from Benguet towns surrounding Baguio have been restricted in going inside the city even as privileged people from Manila were allowed to go in like politicians, celebrities and politicians to relax and to party.
    In other parts of the country, senior citizens over 65 years old and children under age 15 are restricted from going outside their residences to the detriment of their psychological health, and yet we allow more foreigners like the Chinese and tourists into the country.
Somehow, some local governments, seeing the need of their constituents to work and bring food to their families, eased restrictions like mayor Gabby Ganggangan of Sadanga, Mountain Province.
    We may not agree to some of his usual tirades like those against the militant Cordillera People’s Alliance but maybe, he is right in opening the secluded town which had been under lockdown for many months.
    Even in the capital town of Bontoc, buses have resumed operations Thursday like Rising Sun.
Sagada, our hometown, is still restricted and looks like a ghost town basing from pictures posted by locals on Facebook. Gone were the hordes of tourists who walked every nook and cranny in the rustic place.
    The local economy has ground to a halt that even my youngest brother Perry who runs a modest inn there had to come to Baguio with his family and start a small business due to lack of tourists.
    This pandemic had affected and brought suffering to a lot of people but enriched some of those in government, but that is another story.
    Like our philosopher says, it is really up to every individual and family to cope and live with Covid-19. So strengthen your immune system for starters. Have you taken in that Vitamin C tablet before going out?     


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