June 5, 2023

Six months into community quarantines implemented nationwide, Filipinos remain clueless as to what direction they are headed once major socio-economic activities resume under the new normal without compromising public health due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the past six months, Filipinos dutifully complied with all protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases but as restrictions have been slowly lifted, new policies set by the IATF have been quizzed especially those that are not science-based. Some policies have in fact, been set aside due to snowballing public criticisms.
Among policies that have been questioned are the mandatory installation of barriers separating riders and passengers in motorcycles; installation of plastic barriers inside jeepneys; mandatory use of faceshields; reduction of the distance between passengers in mass public transportation; which is more effective in stemming transmission – home quarantine or confinement in an isolation facility; and which is more effective in virus detection, antigen or RT-PCR test, among others.
By some indications, some of these policies were crafted without scientific basis but these were imposed despite lack of inputs from experts to justify their implementation; or do not jibe with norms and standards set by well-regarded organizations.
The flip-flopping by IATF on the guidelines it wants to impose and the public outcry on some policies could have been avoided had there been enough consultation not only from experts but also from stakeholders.
Also, disagreement among members of IATF which manifests in their public pronouncements does not do any good for it only leaves the public confused about what measures they will adopt to protect them from contracting the virus.
At a time when everyone is anxious about what the future holds after majority has lost their livelihood, what we need are experts and policymakers who are able to make sound, objective, and precise decisions.
After months of being on lockdown, the public also needs long-term policies where we can confidently go back to our usual routine knowing that in a crisis such as this, there is a reliable course of action. Sadly, until now, many local government units are not fully-prepared, are not fully-equipped if and when a surge occurs in their area of responsibility. A lot of hospitals are still ill-prepared reason why their respective LGUs resort to a lockdown to stem the spread of the disease. Lockdowns, however, cannot be imposed forever. People and goods also have to move.
Only a few months are left before the year ends but until now, we have yet to hear of any clear policy which could facilitate our transition into a “new normal.”
True enough, the Covid-19 is here to stay and poses serious threat to public health even after a vaccine is available but the public is tired of being herded into the unknown direction. The Filipinos are not pawns that will forever follow the direction set by its principal.
In this most difficult time, what Filipinos need is a decisive leadership which can steer us in a direction where we are guaranteed protection from a disease that is yet to have a cure, where we can regain lost careers or livelihood, where frontline workers can take the backseat even for just a while, and where we can at least have a semblance of what once was, knowing that at the end of the day, there is a straightforward instruction we all can rely on.