Social distancing works. In the last three weeks or so, people have learned to distance themselves from one another, while wearing face masks to keep out any stray virus in the air. They have also stayed home, except for the most urgent needs such as buying needed groceries.
In just a few more days, the month-long “enhanced community quarantine” or lockdown imposed by the government on Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will end, but a modified lockdown will remain in place until April 30, with some restrictions lifted to allow easier delivery of food and other basic goods to markets.
People have accepted the value of social distancing but when the lockdown ends, there will be a problem when it comes to the crowds that normally jam the coaches of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT). A way must be found to avoid the massing of so many people, perhaps by increasing the number of coaches in each train or increasing the number of trips a day. Or the private establishments where most people work can be persuaded to vary their working schedules.
There have been only a few new cases of COVID-19 infections in the last few days. , Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III said that as of last Tuesday, 177 had died while 84 recovered in the country.
In Europe, Spain, the new epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, reported 743 deaths overnight, for a new total of 13,798 fatalities out of 140,510 cases. Much closer to us, Japan declared a state of emergency as the number of reported infections doubled in Tokyo. Nationwide COVID-19 cases passed 4,000 with 93 deaths.
In the United States, the number of deaths exceeded 10,000, with New York City reporting 200 to 215 deaths a day. It is only now that 97 percent of the US has been placed under quarantine and the national government has recommended the voluntary use of face masks.
The social distancing which we have been practicing in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon these last three weeks is only now gaining support in the US. We have been using face masks all this time. The US national government recommended the use of face masks on April 3, but President Donald Trump said he himself would not wear one.
Social distancing has obviously worked for us during the last three weeks that we were under enhanced community quarantine. It started as a government requirement, but it is now being practiced by most people on their own, knowing that it can help protect them from the virus.
Even after the end of the extended quarantine on April 30, social distancing should continue to be observed by people on their own. It has helped limit the spread of COVID-19. It will help prevent any resurgence of the epidemic, as some viruses in the past have done when people quickly returned to their old easy ways.