Some nations starting restrictions only now

Published November 18, 2020, 11:35 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Eight months ago, on March 16, the Philippines began its program of lockdown restrictions, with Metro Manila and all of Luzon placed under an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) which closed down all businesses and offices along with all public transportation.

People, with the exception of hospital and other health personnel along with police and other law enforcement teams, were told to stay home. Everyone was told to wear face masks in public, maintain social distancing of at least one meter from another person, and regularly and vigorously wash their hands. There were some violations but the restrictions were generally accepted.

In the next eight months, the restrictions were gradually lifted, so that today most business and offices have reopened, public transportation is operating again. The school year began in August after a two-month delay, but only with on-line and radio-television classes, no face-to-face meetings.

We continue to have some new infections, but they are nothing compared to what is happening today in the United States and Europe which are only now beginning to enforce restrictions that we adopted months ago.

Last Monday, Austria announced it was closing schools and shops. “There are still many who say that infections don’t happen in school, in shops, or services, but the truth is the authorities can no longer trace 77 percent of new infections, which means they no longer know where contamination is happening,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz said.

Greece closed down all schools after imposing a nationwide night curfew. Italy declared the regions of Tuscany and Campania as “red zones” of tough restrictions which now cover 26 million of Italy’s 60-million population, as its death toll rose to 44,683, one of Europe’s worst. Poland recently decided against a nationwide quarantine; a few days later, it reported a record 548 deaths in 24 hours.

The United States remains the worst COVID-19 country in the world, with over 11 million cases and 246,000 deaths. As of November 13, only 34 of the 50 American states and the District of Columbia required the wearing of face masks in public.

Globally, infections were reported this weekend at over 53 million and deaths at over 1.3 million. There is still so much we don’t know about how the virus spreads, but we have learned that it can jump from one person to another through the breath of an infected person. Which is why we wear face masks in public, maintain a safe distance from the next person. And we wash our hands frequently as we may have touched some surface with lurking COVID-19 virus.

We began our restrictions in the Philippines as early as eight months ago, and are now gradually lifting them, whereas many other countries are only now starting to impose them. Nobody knows for sure when COVID-19 will come under control, but as we see so many nations now suffering from a second wave of the surging pandemic, we must be thankful that we started our restrictions months ago. And we must continue following our self-imposed restrictions of “Mask. Hugas. Iwas,” until we are finally sure that the threat is truly over.