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COMMENTARY: COVID Daze and the Ghost Town Blues

Now that the Metro Manila lockdown is fully in effect, it’s on us citizens to be obedient, cautious, and vigilant; in the hope that this truly works in flattening the curve of the virus’ spread

In an unparalleled move for a health crisis, the Philippines, and Metro Manila in particular, have taken drastic and stringent measures to stem the spread of the COVID-19 infectious disease. These COVID days have left citizens in a real daze—work, travel, businesses, livelihoods, education and careers all left reeling from the restrictions that seem to be our only hope.

The good news is that China is slowly recovering after a little less than 3 months; but we watch with horror as things in Italy have essentially broken down, and the US is playing catch up to stem the Coronavirus tide—SARS-CoV-2 is the official name of the virus, while COVID-19 is the disease.

Metro Manila has literally become a ghost town, and it’s literally a song and a prayer that this works—as if it doesn’t, we can’t even begin to imagine what the next steps would have to be. The ominous posts about number of hospital beds here in the Philippines against the population of 109 million was like an impending dagger hanging over our hearts. It clearly demonstrated just how poorly equipped we are if the disease spreads in the manner it did in Italy. There, it’s like a revisitation of a medieval Black Death plague; and the bitterest irony being that this is the 21st century, and not the 15th.

Metro Manila has literally become a ghost town under the Community Quarantine
Metro Manila has literally become a ghost town under the Community Quarantine

Social distancing and obsessive attention to hygiene seem to be the best defence on a personal basis. It has resulted in controlled entry into the retail establishments that have remained open out of necessity, such as supermarkets and drugstores. This controlled entry means long lines outside most drugstores, and remains to be seen how long this situation will have to continue. And it has made using alco-gel dispensers and hand-washing with soap and/or rubbing alcohol our new national pastime.


On the lighter side, a video 'Public Service Announcement' about the importance and urgency of social distancing was posted by Mel and Max Brooks—Mel, now in his 90s, is of course one of the true Kings of Comedy, having directed such classics as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers; while Max is his son and author of World War Z.

The correlation being that becoming a zombie is akin to succumbing to a pandemic virus. In an accessible, light-hearted manner, the two take on a very serious matter; bringing home how avoiding the ones who mean the most to you can be of paramount importance in these times. And how those of senior age are more at risk when contracting the virus. This is also why in the United States, the service by younger people of lining up and picking up the medicines of Seniors has become one valued delivery offer.

Practicing social distancing when lining up for medicine
Practicing social distancing when lining up for medicine

Now more than ever, if these severe steps are to result in the hoped-for flattening of the curve, and getting back to normalcy, we all have to be vigilant. And hard as it sounds, it’s Information and Cooperation that is key to making this have an optimal chance of succeeding.

Here are some Hotlines you should be aware of:

DOH (Department of Health) 02 86517800, locals 1149 & 1150

RITM (Research Institute of Tropical Medicine) 02 88072631

PNP (Philippine National Police) 117

MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) 136

DOTr (Department of Transportation) 7890

LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchsing and Regulatory Board) 1342.

I mention the above because it’s only if everyone cooperates and complies, can we have a good chance of nipping this in the bud. RITM, for example, has been seeking help from those with media experience to work as volunteers in their Communication efforts. Graphic designers, writers, social media specialists are invited to help transform the data and information that the Institute has been harvesting into messages that are easily digested by the public.

There’s always light at the end of this dark tunnel; it’s how quickly we can get to this light that’s now of paramount importance.

Lead photo from @shusaku1977