Saturday, September 25, 2021

Malilong: Poking the bear

The Other Side

When the daughter of a friend boarded the Cebu-bound plane from Switzerland late last week, she was brimming with anticipation that she would be able to see her family immediately after arrival. The reunion will have to wait, however. The IATF has effectively taken over arrival protocols at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport from Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, meaning longer isolation for new international arrivals.

Over the weekend, the airport was figuratively crawling with policemen and soldiers who had explicit instructions to ensure that inbound international passengers were swabbed and quarantined in accordance with IATF, not the Capitol’s, guidelines. They were still there yesterday, and it looks like they are prepared for the long haul.

The homecoming of my friend’s daughter was unplanned; she decided to come home because she was told that her mom was ailing. She has probably heard about the conflict between Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and the IATF over the length of the quarantine that a returning overseas Filipino should be subjected to upon arrival. But until late last week, the governor’s shorter period was the prevailing regime. My friend’s daughter arrived a day too late.

Now, she will have to wait until the seventh day to be swabbed and tested for the coronavirus and another seven days before she is hopefully released from detention. Her anxiety will only grow as she cools her heels in isolation in a hotel in uptown Cebu, a mere 10-minute drive to her home in Guadalupe.

She is fully vaccinated and tested negative of the virus before she boarded her plane. But that will not matter to the IATF. Rules are rules and they are unbending.

I fully support the idea of following the science in managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Along the way, we may have to go through some extremely irritating personal inconvenience, which we can perhaps consider as our contribution to the overall effort to contain the pandemic. Surely, the IATF did not intend for us to suffer. Suffering is an unintended consequence.

But it is difficult to understand why no consideration should be granted the fact that an arriving overseas Filipino has been fully vaccinated. Isn’t the vaccine supposed to be the silver bullet? Or is the IATF saying that we cannot really put so much faith in vaccination because a person can still acquire the virus and infect others even if he has already received the two doses of the vaccine at least 14 days before he arrived at the airport?

If such were the case, what is the point in campaigning for people to have themselves jabbed in the arm twice, both times exposing themselves to possible fever, chills, headache or other minor adverse effects? Science is evolving and it should listen to reason. Keep the 14-day quarantine if we must but exempt the fully vaccinated or at least grant them a shorter period of isolation.

We are assuming, of course, that the IATF policy will be permanently enforced at the airport, at least until the pandemic is over. For that to happen, Garcia will have to admit that a provincial ordinance is inferior to IATF guidelines or that the IATF’s idea is better than hers.

I do not see that happening. Garcia will not surrender unless President Duterte himself instructs her to do so. Having gained the upper hand, the IATF is in a position to tell the Capitol to not poke the bear but even if they don’t, Capitol is already sufficiently riled up and, to borrow a lawyer’s line, will act accordingly. Things just got more interesting.


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