THE population of the United States is 330 million. Ours is 110 million.
The total confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US as of yesterday was 4,232,979, a little over one fourth of the number of infections recorded worldwide—16,196,314, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. During the same period, the Philippines logged 80,448 cases.
So far, 146,927 people have died of Covid-19 in the US. Our total number of deaths is 1,932. More than 60,000 new infections have been recorded daily in that country during the last few weeks. We have just breached the 2,000 mark per day recently.
I am not making the comparison to let us feel better because others are suffering from the pandemic more than we are. I merely want to point out that all of us—poor nations, great nations, poor people and wealthy people—are victims in this plague and therefore it is in the best interests of all of us to help prevent it from spreading until a vaccine can be found. Sometimes, helping means bearing inconvenience, even pain. It can also mean being considerate to those who have to bear the inconvenience.
Take the case of the granular lockdown now in force in six areas in the city. (Funny how easily words that are strange or have an otherwise different meaning to us can find their place in our daily conversations. How many of us have heard the word “granular” spoken during the last 20 years? And how about the verb “extract”? Lawyers extract an admission from a witness and dentists extract a tooth. But extract a person who is positive for the virus?)
But back to the lockdown. The other night, I got a call from a friend who is currently quarantined at the Cebu City quarantine center. His neighborhood has been locked down, isolating his wife, a special child and a two-year-old grandchild. The baby needed milk and they were not able to buy it along with the other essentials to tide them over during the period of their confinement because the lockdown caught them by surprise.
I told him that the government has assured affected residents that they will be fed and that while special needs like milk for babies were not mentioned, I assumed that that would be taken care of too.
But it bothers me that the residents were not properly advised to go out and buy whatever they needed before they were locked in their homes. Is it because they feared that the residents might flee? But where were they supposed to go? The city’s boundaries have been shut down and given the heightened awareness by the people of the danger of transmission of the virus, they will be wary of new arrivals in the neighborhood and report them to barangay officials.
Besides, it is not in our nature to abandon our homes. Those who have experienced trying to evacuate people living in hazardous areas to safer grounds during storms can tell you how difficult, almost impossible, it is to make them leave their houses. Those in lockdown areas are better situated than those whose houses are in danger of being blown away by strong winds or washed to the sea by the waves. They would have stayed even with the prospect of being restricted by the lockdown.
It seems to me that we are treating those whose lives are in immediate threat by the coronavirus or who could transmit the disease to others, no better than we treat criminal suspects. We act as if we’re a raiding team who must have the element of surprise on our side so we can catch the suspects in flagrante delicto.
These people are victims, not offenders. We ask them to temporarily give up their liberty as their contribution to the effort to contain the pandemic. Our contribution is in understanding their needs and in treating them as human beings, not chattels.