I was having a conversation with a friend about the COVID-19 pandemic the other day. I asked him why people around the world, not just in the Philippines, blame their governments for the spread of the virus? I mean, people don’t blame their governments when they get a cold or a flu so why blame the government for people getting sick with COVID-19, which is caused by another type of coronavirus similar to the ones that cause Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)? When those viruses came out, the people weren’t calling on all the heads in government to roll during the outbreak.
I find it quite baffling, really. People die from all kinds of diseases every day but COVID-19 has created panic worldwide since the beginning of the year to the point where economies have been left to rot and a lot of people sinking into depression as a result of either losing their jobs or being separated from their loved ones because of the mandatory lockdowns imposed by governments.
A quick search has so far yielded a result showing 18 million COVID-19 confirmed cases as of this writing, 10.6 million recoveries and 685,000 deaths worldwide from the virus. If you look at the numbers objectively, the death rate isn’t proportionate to the panic this virus has created, which is colossal. Of course, if you are one of those who caught and suffered from the virus or have loved ones who passed away due to the virus, then it may not be possible to look at it the way some of us are seeing it. Admittedly my opinion about this could change if I ever get COVID-19 or if any of my loved ones suffer from it. One’s emotions take over when the experience becomes personal. Then again, suffering from any major disease that has been proven fatal will always change one’s perspective. Having said that, a lot of diseases like cancer can be debilitating, it’s just that the devastation old diseases bring into people’s lives has lost its novelty unlike those wreaked by the novel coronavirus.
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We can already see that three months of lockdown only delayed the spread of the virus in some countries. As soon as the restrictions eased, some places experienced a rise in COVID-19 cases again. This is what happened in the state of Victoria, Australia and in South Korea, Singapore and other parts of the world. That’s what they call the “second wave”. But what happens when there is a third or fourth wave? Is the world going to keep going into lockdown every time new cases arise? Did governments do this when the plague or what they called the Black Death wiped out millions of people around the world? In fact, the plague is still around but improvements in personal hygiene were thought to have eventually helped stop the spread of the disease.
Going back to my friend, what was his response to me, you might ask? He said that there are a lot of irresponsible and stupid people out there who can spread the virus and make more people sick. It is the government’s role to protect the majority from these selfish people. But the problem with that reasoning is, not all governments have the resources and the funds to prevent some from being stupid and irresponsible.
Take the case of the Philippines. If there was a society unprepared for the onslaught of a pandemic, it is Philippine society. Filipinos aren’t even prepared for the garden-variety typhoons that visit a few times a year, what more a pandemic? It has brought the country to its knees. The gains the Duterte government had made before the pandemic has shifted to a glacial pace instead of staying in full gear. The economy has suffered a blow. Small businesses had no choice but to declare massive losses due to lack of sales.
But President Rodrigo Duterte had to make the hard decision of putting the country into what he calls quarantine mode that sounds more relaxed but in reality, is even stricter than the lockdown rules imposed by some governments in other countries. Families haven’t been able to visit their relatives in the last four months since the quarantine started. Face masks were made mandatory way ahead of other countries. So accusing the government of not doing enough is totally wrong.
It’s actually surprising and annoying at the same time the people, mostly from the Opposition, who are outraged that the number of COVID-19 cases is high in the Philippines. Considering there are so many people who live in densely populated areas in the country, what were members of the Opposition expecting? Are they dense and can’t see how millions of people live in squatter areas? When I drive by these areas I often wonder how a family of six or more can fit in a tiny shack. I can only imagine family members sleeping on top of one another.
The Philippine Opposition actually contradict themselves on where they stand on quarantines. Because they like going on protest marches to show their indignation against the Duterte government, they resent the fact that they can’t do it freely during the lockdown or quarantine period. They even accuse Duterte of using the COVID-19 pandemic to discourage people from going to rallies.
However, as soon as Duterte eased the restrictions, they, particularly the current Vice President Leni Robredo — who even said at some point that extended lockdowns won’t help fight against the virus — accused the President of not doing enough to stop Covid_19 from spreading and claimed his government is not helping the medical front-liners get a break then pleaded with him to bring back the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Manila. They really can’t make up their minds up.
There is a time to blame the government and there is a time when people need to take accountability for their own actions. The government can only do so much to stop the spread of diseases like COVID-19. Members of the Opposition are not helping when they criticise the government heavily for something it did not cause. They are adding to the problem. The whole world is suffering from the pandemic. It’s not just the Philippines grappling for a solution that can put an end to people’s misery brought on by a disease most medical experts still know too little about.
If there is one thing people need to do it is to stop whining when the government is already doing its best with very little resources at its disposal. The hard truth is, the Philippine population has reached a point where nature is doing its job to flatten the curve. It’s hard to argue with nature, indeed.
In life, things are not always what they seem.