Thursday, August 05, 2021

Velez: Lockdown journal #1: Safe but sane?


BY NOW, we are on our fourth day of our lockdown in the safety (sort of) of home. It’s not easy. We are social animals. But routines, habits, activities, work and play have changed -- or rather, disrupted -- because of this tiny, invisible virus lying and flying on surfaces.

We may call this an early summer vacation. My son will not have his graduation rites this month. His therapies are also cancelled. It’s a blessing we have been taught well how to do therapies at home. I have a month to make up with this boy for missed time. Plans of binging in films and books may come later.

But what occupies most of our minds, in the safety of our homes, is still, the news.

The news last Monday showed people cramming into checkpoints in both Davao and Metro Manila, hoping to get in despite the lockdown. Some may dismiss this as hard-headed undisciplined people. But if you read the comments section, be it on this Sunstar FB page or national news pages, you find people asking frantic and earnest questions. We just need to transit, and Davao is in the middle of our route. Can I enter because I’m a Davao resident? We need to enter because we need to work.

We. Need. Work. There are thousands of daily-wage earners here in Davao. And there’s more in Manila, the hub of service industries, traders big and small, vendors and drivers. We have an economy driven by people. Hospitals. Banks. Transportation. Markets.

But as these questions were raised, another presscon last Monday just leveled up the quarantine into entire Luzon. Everyone is “ordered” to stay at home, avoid commuting, stop work. Local governments will take care of feeding the people.

But is it possible to feed around 50 million people in Luzon? Besides, is it realistic for people to just stay inside their homes like Big Brother for a month? What about those with cramped houses? Or those without even homes.

These show the deeper problems that the government has failed to address. Traffic, failure to spread development to provinces, endo, farmers losing to rice imports, lack of adequate health facilities in every city. Now a virus exposes the government’s failures.

Then you compare our situation to other countries. There are no lockdowns, just different versions of quarantines and social distancing. But people can still go on with their lives. Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, are able to fight the virus fast. But here, the virus is much a mystery to be feared. It seems we operate much on fear. The way we rush to stockpile food, sanitary items and face masks at the first news of Covid hitting the city.

Fear is how this “best and brightest” government wants us to live on. Obey and stay. But we need to ask: for how long? And also, what is the ending of our country’s narrative on Covid? What we see so far is not light at the end of the tunnel, but a place of checkpoints, tired health workers, and an uneasy populace.

I might as well retreat to books. It’s a full four weeks ahead.


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