TO help the country bounce back from the economic backlash brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, several provinces and cities were put in a more relaxed quarantine status. Under the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), which is the least restricted of all the quarantines, more business establishments were opened, more employees allowed to report to work, more public transportation allowed on the streets and more small scale vendors can peddle in the neighborhood. This put money in the pocket and food on the table of many Juan dela Cruz, without needing the ayudas from the government.
But the MGCQ still requires citizens to strictly follow the basic health protocols of washing hands, wearing face masks and face shields in public places, social distancing, and limited gatherings. As much as government officials would want to, they just can not monitor and track whether everyone is following or not. They relied on our self imposed discipline or self-regulation. After all, when we obey, we are basically saving our own selves and our loved ones from the virus. After all, when we obey, we are protecting our businesses and our source of income from being taken away again.
But can we really count on people’s self-imposed discipline or self-regulation?
While we see packets of successful implementation in some areas like Baguio and most parts of Metro Manila (the MM Mayors decided to extend their GCQ status though they can already be put in MGCQ), unfortunately in most parts of the country, we are still wanting of self-regulation from its residents.
Take for instance the sad reality in my hometown Davao City.
Our lovely city was one of the first cities to be given the MGCQ status several months ago because somehow, we successfully controlled the numbers of COVID cases. As such, we had more economic activities in the City early on.
But most people of Davao did not self-regulate. The basic health protocols were not followed… they were simply disobeyed.
In the few times that I would go out, I personally saw how some people just disregard and disobey protocols. Face masks are not worn properly, often leaving the nose exposed. I noticed them, especially among the sidewalk vendors. (We chose to buy our fruits and vegetables from them in support of small scale farmers). Each time, we have to remind them to wear properly, and only then they will comply.
Face shields are required in all workplaces. But in the two courier companies that I transacted with during the past weeks, most of their employees are not wearing face shields. And every time I will call their attention, they will just reply, ”naa naman face mask, Mam. Lisod mag trabaho ba ng naka face shield”. (We already have face masks mam. It’s hard to work wearing face shield). While some of those with face shields are wearing them like headbands. This was a common sight in the malls and even inside the churches.
The mandate of having a limited number of people during gatherings was also not followed. Curfew and liquor ban was lifted but these too were abused.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, these irresponsible behaviors led to a resurgence of COVID infections in the City. For almost a week now, Davao has one of the highest daily new Covid-19 cases.
This prompted Mayor Sara Duterte to issue an Executive Order imposing citywide restrictions on mass gatherings and non-essential travel within Davao City until year-end. Curfew and liquor ban has been restored again.
We’re now back to early closing hours for most offices and business establishments. Malls are now with many people. Restaurants and cafes being frequented after office hours are almost empty since office workers are now rushing home due to curfew. Shorter hours and fewer passengers for public transports since non-essential travel within the City is discouraged.
All these, of course, affect our local economy and the people’s income-earning opportunities. Lesser income equals lesser spending. Lesser spending equals lesser income for establishments providing jobs, which may eventually lead to job losses and people relying on government ayudas. And so goes the vicious cycle. This is what one act of disobedience can lead to!
So before we again complain about the discomfort of having to wear a face mask and face shield, about having to observe social distancing, or before planning for your next secret get together, let’s be reminded that our disobedience does not only put us at risk of contracting the virus. Let us also be mindful of the expensive price we have to pay for our one act of disobedience! Then maybe we will learn.