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‘Each individual has a role to play’

Now that Metro Manila and Calabarzon have been reverted to the status of Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), the second most stringent of the government’s pandemic restrictions, people have to go back to the time when they were generally expected to stay at home, except for the most urgent reasons such as to buy food.

Only a maximum of five was allowed for mass gatherings. There was no public transport—no MRT, no buses or jeepneys, no interisland travel, no domestic flights. Biking and non-motorized transport were encouraged. Some businesses and industries were allowed to operate but with no more than 50 percent of their employees on site, the rest to work at home.

Many recently opened businesses will have to close down again, the Department of Trade and Industry said. These include dine-in restaurants, barber shops, salons and gyms, Internet cafes, and tourist destinations like beaches and resorts. People below 21 and those 60 and above are not allowed to leave the house, along with those with immune deficiency, those with health risks, and pregnant women

It could have been worse. The nation’s hospital workers – doctors, nurses, med techs – had asked for a return to the original Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) – to give them, they said, a “time-out” as they were already “burnt out with seemingly endless numbers of patients trooping to our hospitals for emergency care and admission.”

President Duterte instead ordered a return to the less stringent Modified ECQ (MECQ) — a compromise between the frontllners’ request and the reality that the country cannot afford to stop all business and office activity once again . And the govenment cannot give anymore handouts to people deprived of work and income.

The return to MECQ should help bring down the number of cases seeking admission to hospitals. It should help ease the burden on the doctors, nurses, and oher hospital workers. We hope to see fewer cases of COVID-19 as the government resumes its restrictions on people’s movements.

But the factories and other businesses already allowed to partly reopen will continue to operate. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno said he expects the economic impact of these recent developments to be limited.

“Each individual has a role to play in mitigating the adverse effect of the crisis on the loss of lives, jobs, and livelihoods,” he said. Considering his field of concern as head of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, he must have been thinking primarily of what each person can do for the nation’s economic recovery from the difficulties and restrictions of these last five months.

His words should be taken to heart by everyone in dealing with the pandemic itself, not just its economic ill effects. COVID-19 continues to spread because people do not follow basic health instructions. Some people continue to gather as they used to, carry on with their old activities with others, ignoring requirements to wear face masks, maintain proper distances, and thoroughly wash their hands. They are the ones who account for the growing number of infections and deaths in the country today.

“Each individual has a role to play,” Governor Diokno said. The day each one of us accepts this role, the statistics of the Department of Health will cease rising, the heavy burden on hospital frontliners will ease, and COVID-19 will cease to be a problem for our nation.

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