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ECQ or not?

I’d rather dwell on our local problems here than analyze what the SONA was all about. My sentiments are predictable but to sum it up – I probably watched a different SONA than what our politicians here saw as most of them glorified the government’s programs and promises.

They were mum on the issue of the death penalty, on the President’s admission that he was inutile in defending our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, and concrete plans regarding the pandemic crisis.

Yet, Bacolod Mayor Bing Leonardia called the report “comprehensive” and Negros Occidental Gov. Bong Lacson described it as “pivotal.”

Abang Lingkod Party List Rep. Stephen Paduano even mentioned how his President tackled “core solutions to address the economic and health concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” which made me wonder whether this was uttered during the time I was barfing at the reading of the report that seemed unclear even to the reader.

Thankfully, Rep. Bibo Cueva also noticed that what many expected as a detailed discussion on addressing the present crisis did not happen and so, we were probably watching on the same channel.

Oh well, enough of the SONA since I probably will be censoring half of this column anyway from expletives.

The more pressing issue here is the call of the medical community to bring us back to the ECQ status. This has been a divisive issue as it is difficult to balance public health safety and protecting the local economy that has yet to normalize.

We have the business community against it and understandably so as we have yet to see the full effects of the previous lockdown. If you go around town, a number of establishments, big or small, have closed down. Even lifting the curfew has not lit up the town at night as majority are still not comfortable to go paint the town red.

Gov. Bong Lacson admitted that the province cannot afford to have another ECQ as this will entail millions to provide for the people’s basic needs while on lockdown.

Mayor Bing has yet to give his opinion on the matter after consulting with the various sectors, including the medical experts. Besides, if the national IATF will agree to this request, will it provide financial assistance to our city and province or will we be left to fend on our own this time around?

Perhaps there is no harm in trying as the president himself boasted that our fiscal situation is A-ok and maybe there is extra left from the billions of dollars of loans.

I mentioned then that I doubt if we will be granted ECQ even for two weeks as requested by the medical community. We are far from the state Cebu was in when the national government came in to put them on lockdown with the help of military force.

While we currently top the number of cases in Western Visayas and from what I heard, the regional IATF are seriously mulling the doctors’ views, we have not reached the thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths Cebu had that warranted that second lockdown.

However, I can understand the doctors’ appeal that we have to do something to prevent us from becoming the next epicenter and more importantly, because of the reported increase of positives from among the medical frontliners, thus two weeks of ECQ will be a reprieve to sort out the present infection.

However, this will only work if our city and province invested much in contact tracing and ample quarantine facilities. Otherwise, why should we even go on a new round of lockdown? Yes, we may limit the movements of people but as soon as two weeks is up and you still have not identified nor isolated the positives, it will still be back to square one.

Besides, not all in the medical community agree with the lockdown request. A post from Dr. Adonis Guancia makes a lot of sense when he said that at the moment, we still do not have a community transmission as what happened in Cebu and parts of Metro Manila.

“What we have are local transmissions, cases transmitted by infected individuals to their families and friends. By assiduous tracing, these contacts were identified and tested. As testing centers increase, turn around time decreased, hence the surge in report of positive cases,” adding that this might be good and may prevent community transmission.

Guancia pointed out that another “assault” on our financial, health and mental state through a new lockdown “might just be more damaging than helpful.”

Talisay Mayor Neil Lizares was on point when he recently posted that during these trying times, the solution to this pandemic lies within us. It always starts with us being responsible in our actions.

And I think that’s the better way to address it. Let us strengthen our advocacy on the basics of health safety, educate the public how to access health services at the onset of symptoms, and strictly enforce health protocols as there are still many who are not wearing masks. With that in place, we do not need an ECQ.*

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October 2022

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