The world is raring to get moving again.Perhaps, it might be about time to take those measured – but sure – steps forward and start putting the wheels of motion back in gear.
It has been 18 months since the COVID-19 virus first landed in the Philippines. It was our initiation to the world – and word – of Community Quarantine (CQ). It curtailed our right to move freely and at will, to go where we want to, when we want to.
The closest to CQ that I recall experiencing was during the Martial Law days when curfew was imposed. As shocking as it was to be deprived of mobility for a number of hours then, however, CQ was much more difficult to digest because it put a full stop to movement, 24/7.
In other parts of the world, the restriction of mobility was called a “lockdown”. Our government opted to use variations of CQ – enhanced, general, modified – perhaps, because the term “lockdown” sounded too repressive.Nonetheless, there was no mistaking that, indeed, CQ was as severe as lockdown in terms of limits to mobility.
Yes, there was a compelling and urgent reason for CQ. We were not only confronted by a clear and present danger; it was also a threat that had no known answer. There was no ransom to be paid, no armed engagement to be waged, no diplomatic coalition to be organized. There was no negotiating with the adversary. The only path open was to shelter-in-place. We had to stay out of its way, making sure that we did not become victims and, worse, carriers of it. The world prayed that this deadly virus would die its own death which, ironically, it could not even do because it was not a living thing to begin with. Literally, we had to starve it to extinction by not making ourselves hosts to it, by staying in place in our respective safe zones.
So, in an instant, our world came to a virtual halt, allowing only for essential movement. Whatever limited mobility that was allowed was under the strictest of protocols and came cloaked with full hazard protective gear. The scene resembled a real-world set for an epic bio-war film. The fear of not knowing what we were up against galvanized us– quite willingly – into a state of sheer immobility.
A year and a half hence, we know so much more about this COVID-19 virus. In fact, vaccines were developed and deployed in record time. This shows that, in fact, the world can act in concert and with a common sense of purpose – survival! Though not without bumps along the way, vaccines are being distributed worldwide and inoculation of the citizenry is moving into full swing. The goal is herd immunity, where vaccinating 70 percent of the population is the critical milestone. In the Philippines, we have again coined a variation of this goal: population protection.
With the arrival and administration of vaccines, efforts of government to restart the economy are starting to increase in scope and scale. Consumer confidence is being restored. Businesses are being allowed to reopen their doors to greater numbers of customers.Employment is returning. All of this augurs well for a balanced way forward in terms of preserving lives and livelihood.
In order for us to realize the desired kick-start in our economy, it is critical to return mobility to the system. One side of it is that people need to get back to work, especially in factories, commercial establishments and other work places where work-on-site is unavoidable. Mobility is the necessary lubricant to oil our economic engines.
On the other hand, mobility is also essential to assure that as business reopens, we are able to get customers to their doorsteps or their goods to the customer’s homes. We literally need to mobilize demand for commodities and services. Otherwise, establishments will remain empty. To be sure, the logistics industry has been a much needed lifeline under quarantine — making sure people get their orders for food, medicines and even shopped items. This will remain a necessary part of the new normal. However, new sectors that are being opened — such as wellness, fitness, grooming and the sort – need people to physically be in the shops if it has to have any meaning.
In fact, the biggest sector that requires mobility in order to really get on the road to recovery is the tourism business. Millions depend on this sector for their livelihood. And, yes, many millions of Filipinos also want to come out of quarantine to rediscover their community, their town, neighboring provinces and the rest of the country.
Yes, maybe now is the time to get moving again. Responsibly, of course, with full compliance to health protocols and regulations. Let us move forward to better days.