Confusion is the last thing we need in this pandemic

Published September 8, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The week started with an alarming news – 22,415 new cases of COVID-19 infection, a new high. Then another news arrived and was more alarming – there is a projected 30,000 plus cases per day in the coming days. These news are a cause of much concern and anxiety, and pain especially for those who are now in search of hospital beds or preparing to say goodbye to loved ones via Zoom. The last thing that they – and all of us – need is confusion.

Where does this confusion come from? After enduring the various lockdown acronyms such as ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ for such a long time, the government has announced that “granular lockdowns” will be implemented in NCR Plus starting Sept. 8. This kind of lockdown, like a typhoon or disaster warning, has four alert levels, with the fourth as the strictest.

The government has said that the granular lockdown focuses on specific and targeted closure of a certain street, a subdivision or village, or even a district or barangay where there is a prevalence of high transmission of COVID-19. This is done, according to the Trade and Industry Department, to save the economy and allow more employees to go to work in industries such as personal care, fitness, or hospitality.

The confusion lies in the fact that there are so many questions and different messages coming from various agencies. A pronouncement as major as this one has caught health experts by surprise and a lot of them, such as OCTA Research, have aired their skepticism on the effectivity of a granular lockdown. One expert even said: “This granular lockdown will make it hard for people to follow as they go out to work…what happens if they work in another city or barangay with different alert levels?”  The announcement that NCR is now under GCQ also sends mixed signals and has further confused the citizenry. There are also questions about implementation and monitoring.

Netizens have noted this concerning scenario, with comments full of questions with no concrete answers. In a pandemic as troubling as this one, people feel that they are entering a battle with no direction, no goal, and no victory in sight.  The government has said that it would further release guidelines in the coming days, but isn’t it too late? It would be a big help if a clear, complete, and correct guideline is released before a major announcement, such as a granular lockdown, is made – and not afterward.

Lives are at stake and the economy is at a fragile state. Proper communication is vital to help ease worries and diffuse confusion. Announcements that are raw, not vetted by health experts, and filled with mixed messaging because of apparent lack of communication between agencies exacerbate the dire situation we are in and diminish the already thin patience of citizens.

A first step in the right direction, according to a netizen, is as basic and simple as this: “Please form a group chat.”