Editorial: Humanizing community quarantine

·3 min read

ROMAN Catholics observed Palm Sunday yesterday, March 28, regarded as a “moveable feast” commemorating the entry of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, where he was welcomed by crowds that waved and placed leaves of the date palm tree in His path.

Also called Passion Sunday, the Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is celebrated in a mass that has a lengthy, dramatized reading of the gospel dwelling on the Lord’s Passion, the narrative of His crucifixion, death and resurrection.

During the week that separates Palm Sunday from Easter Sunday, Jesus traverses the mercurial nature of the world’s affections, from veneration to abandonment.

An equally abrupt shift — from rehabilitation to seeming abandonment — bore down on residents of the Greater Manila area when Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced on March 27 that it will be placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April 4, a one-week period the authorities regard as necessary to bring down the surge of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases.

The ECQ declaration was viewed as nearly as calamitous as the 9,808 new cases of Covid-19 reported in the country on March 26. For many residents of the “NCR Plus,” a term coined by the Duterte administration to refer to Metro Manila and nearby provinces Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan and Rizal, recovery from the first ECQ declaration on March 17-30, 2020 has been gradual and precarious. For some, there has been no return yet to a more secure situation.

Reactions on social media posted after the March 27 ECQ declaration reflected the frustrations and anxieties of citizens who were confronted once more with their vulnerability to deprivations created by the reimposition of the ECQ, the most stringent level of community quarantine imposed by the government.

Relief plans were not discussed in detail by Roque in his announcement of the imposition of the ECQ, which could have mitigated fears stirred up by past or ongoing experiences of unemployment, loss of livelihood, limitations in mobility and other concerns related to daily survival.

Roque mentioned that cash aid will be given to those affected by the one-week ECQ. His announcement that details on the emergency aid are still being worked out hardly comfort those who remembered the social amelioration program (SAP) of 2020 but did not receive the promised emergency financial assistance.

Local government material assistance was hardly regular or sufficient to sustain families as the community quarantine periods extended. Even as the ECQ was downgraded to the modified ECQ, general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ, many of those who lost employment or livelihood failed to recover or find alternatives.

Learning from past omissions and inadequacies in emergency assistance given by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units (LGUs) should push authorities to prioritize emergency aid plans in their handling of the pandemic, along with the efficient rollout of vaccination for frontliners and prioritized groups.

More than a year of the pandemic has placed a heavy demand on LGU resources. Recognizing the more finite funds of barangays, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes said he will be giving P150,000 to barangays with a small population and P300,000 to bigger barangays.

As reported by Kate F. Denolang in SunStar Cebu on March 27, Cortes’s reminders to barangay leaders included monitoring and responding to rising cases of Covid-19 and expediting the gathering of data for the mass vaccination in the communities.

Beyond imposing a lockdown, authorities must have a holistic, humane approach to working with communities in containing and preventing surges. If the pandemic has a silver lining, it is the realization of each one’s role to protect and promote the well-being of the whole.