Lifting of the curfew also lifts the economy  

Published November 5, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Manila Bulletin

“For the good of the economy” – this seemed to be the primary motive and collective interest that pushed the 17 mayors of the National Capital Region to finally agree on lifting any curfew restrictions, which started yesterday, Nov. 4, 2021. This came after a year and a half of varying curfew times, with the strictest at 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the start of the pandemic.

In the 19 months of the curfew, it may have served its purpose in cutting down unnecessary travel at night and barring anyone from going out of their residences for leisure purposes. With a “novel” virus suddenly affecting the health of even the healthiest Pinoy, the government saw the curfew as a tool to limit movement to curb the rising number of infections. At that time, it seemed plausible as other countries also used curfews to fight COVID. 

Critics, however, have repeatedly assailed the fact that curfews have no effect, as the virus doesn’t choose between day and night to infect a person’s lungs. They also noted the lax enforcement of curfews and observed how these have drastically affected businesses that could only operate at night or could use an extra hour or two to financially survive. The country’s curfew in its capital, which is one of the longest in the world, may have also broken the back of the economy.  

The lifting of the curfew, so ordered by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Resolution No. 21-25, was welcome news by the business sector. This was highlighted by MMDA chairman Benhur Abalos, who said, “The lifting of curfew hours will bring a sense of normalcy and our contribution to help the economy. This also helps spread out the influx of people coming to and from malls to further reduce the risk of virus transmission.”

The timing couldn’t be more auspicious as businesses rely on the “ber” months to recuperate losses incurred during the past 10 months. With the Labor Department still insisting that there shouldn’t be any excuse not to provide the law-mandated 13th-month pay, businesses need all the help to survive and thrive in the new normal.

Malls are now preparing for the extended opening hours, with some announcing that starting Nov. 15, 2021, they would be open as early as 10 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. This is in anticipation of holiday shopping, which a lot of Filipinos missed last year. Various businesses such as gasoline stations, coffee shops, and gyms have also announced the reinstatement of their 24-hour service. 

The MMDA also announced that soon, midnight bazaars in open areas would be allowed to operate, this time helping small businesses earn more after months of selling their wares or food online.

With the decreasing number of new COVID cases and the rising number of fully vaccinated individuals in NCR, everyone seems to be in a joyful mood – except for some members of the health sector who are in a “wait-and-see” mode.  Health experts have warned that the lifting of the curfew is not a sign that everything is back to normal.  COVID-19 (and its sinister variants), they said, is very much around and ready to strike the next person who will forget to follow the simple health protocols. One wrong move, made by even just one fool, can upend all our efforts and sacrifices, and bring us back once more to our curfew-led routines.