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Enduring Lockdowns

There was novelty in the idea that a city will lock down all entrances to it every weekend. No clear reason was given except for the information that there was a surge of cases in the area. And yet, there it was last Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, the directive that the whole of Naga would be in a lockdown only from 9 in the evening to 4 in the morning of Monday.

Now, what is the wisdom of cutting off arrivals and departures from that time in the evening to that early morning of Monday? In the absence of clear studies, the decision is at best arbitrary. In fact, in the absence of any lucid data how that policy was generated, the action of the local government becomes a gesture of chance. A la suerte, as the old people would say. Sheer luck.

That towns and cities now have boundaries was one of the absurd if grim realization when the pandemic began all over the country. But when we articulate laws that would prevent people from leaving their city, we need to underscore as well the effects of the benefits of that control.

It appears that the reason for this series of weekend lockdowns is to control the rise in cases. The assumption is that weekend carried more people into the city. By default, we can also assume that more people leave the city during Saturdays and Sundays.

How significant are these movements to the pandemic and the spread of the virus?

How crucial is the blockade of entrances and exits to the city?

The fact is from the beginning of all kinds of lockdowns – general to granular and godknowswhatelse – there was no trajectory for the virus but for its spread to increase, for the rate of infection to go up. There must be a remiss somewhere.

We are not doing the proper research. And when I talk of research, I am talking of the systematic gathering of data. And when I talk of data-gathering, I must repeat – and simplify – that there are only three ways of collecting data and collating them. They are the following: by observing, by interviewing, and by conducting a survey.

I can begin from my own village. Let us call it Village R. Infections in this small subdivision have affected only the permanent houses. By observing and looking around, that brutal tarp of red and black announcing the lockdown, can only be seen in houses that can be defined as made of permanent materials. I do not see the tarp hanged around the small houses of the informal settlers.

This may sound anti-poor but here is my cursory (not arbitrary) observation of the phenomenon: either the people in those little huts are asymptomatic for some reason or another or they do not report the health conditions in their household. Or, they ignore the bodily pains and discomfort and never report it. This does not mean though that they are not carriers. Those who are more or less belonging to a relatively higher socio-economic status are compelled to report their conditions especially if they belong to an organization or a formal economic force, not the underground economy. This does not mean, however, that the people in these houses are weaker and more reckless than those in the informal settlements.

This brings us to the next realities, facts that are mentioned already by many in their online comments to the policies of the Naga City local government. In many barangay, distant barangays and informal settlements, life is business as usual. Perhaps, this is their way of coping with the pandemic but it can also be their lack of awareness about the pandemic. Children run around with no masks; people not wearing masks cluster around food stalls, the last not within the purview anymore of the sanitary inspector. Makeshift means of transportation like padyak and trolleys go around unchecked and unmonitored.

On the same website, there are announcements of on-site vaccination. We still have a long way to go. Would there be also more online random (not mass) testing if only to present a more realistic approximation of the pandemic profile of barangays in the city?

As for the weekend lockdown, the sense I get from people I talk with is this overwhelming fatigue from the imposed controls of the government on the people. These interventions are harsh and do not seem to take into consideration the silent impact of the lockdowns and the collateral dangers posed by the virus, which is the mental health of the people.

How far can this government push the people to obey? How clarified are the benefits that will result from the laws enacted? These are questions needing educated responses in the face of sumptuary laws directed at regulating people’s habits of production and consumption. If left unanswered, there will be this condition that people are being punished instead of being protected by the very same leader given the power to access wisdom and justice from wellsprings of the good and virtuous.

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