Malilong: No harm, no foul? Wrong.

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

ONE morning, a couple of weeks after the imposition of the first general community quarantine in Cebu City last March, my two granddaughters came to the room as usual and found me still lying in bed. Don’t go near me, I’m not feeling well, I told them. You have the coronavirus?, Maggie, 8, asked worriedly. Hearing this, Chelsea, 5, stormed out of the room screaming if I was going to die.

I was amused. Mine was not a case of the coronavirus but of a blood pressure that had gone haywire, most probably because of the lack of exercise (the Cebu City Sports Center was closed, converted into a temporary police camp), or something that I had at dinner. I was also happy that the idea of avoiding someone who may have the disease has been drilled into their young and innocent minds.

Would that adults behave the same way. Alas, the severity of the danger posed by Covid-19 to a person’s life and the consequent need to observe measures designed to prevent you from acquiring it and subsequently infecting others appear to be oftentimes lost among grown-ups. Is it machismo or are we just hardheaded?

I have been to a few small gatherings recently after having been in hiding for almost six months and it appalled me to see people casually ignore rules on the wearing of masks or observing physical distancing as easily as they would break “no parking” signs.

They would initially wear masks, then remove them after a while, never to wear them again until your meeting is done. The worst part is when they face you as they speak at a distance enough to guarantee, according to health experts, your catching droplets expelled from their mouth.

If he does not have the virus, you’re fine. No harm, no foul. But who is to say that one is surely not a coronavirus carrier? The tests? But they can sometimes fail you. Remember the case of the Filipino seafarers who tested negative before they left for Australia but were found positive upon arrival? Or of the Filipino workers who were discovered to have the virus when they arrived in China?

The number of failures may not be many and, I hasten to add, not necessarily reflective of the competence of the lab where your swab was sent or of the technicians who processed it. Rather, it is, according to literature that I read, due to a minor flaw in the test itself which is that at a certain stage of the infection, it cannot detect the presence of the virus.

Besides, not everyone has or can be tested and many of them could actually be carriers of the virus even if they do not show any symptoms. And, contrary to myth circulating on the Internet, asymptomatic carriers can transmit the disease. The health experts said so. How can you identify them so that you can avoid contact with them?

You can’t. That is the philosophy behind the advice to always wear a mask and avoid a crowd. You have to treat everyone as coronavirus-contagious. Call it paranoia if you like but that’s the way it is, if you do not want to be infected.

So don’t hesitate to call out someone who does not follow the protocol. If he is a real friend, he will not be offended. If he is a relative, he should know better than to put you in a situation where you have to call his attention.

And if he’s a stranger, you call the police.