"What lies in store for us?"
Mark this date: June 1, 2020. Save for the cities of Cebu and Mandaue in Central Visayas and a few barangays in Metro Manila, this will be the first day of the easing of the nationwide lockdown as the President has declared that the country will now be under General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
After 75 days under the strict Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), we will now have more activities. From very limited, essential movements of transport, goods and people, we will now have more sectors and areas opened up, more offices and workers up and about and, as all medical workers and, yes, parents, are worried about, greater possibility of COVID-19 transmissions. Hopefully, the latter scene may not be as problematic as projected. But we will have to grin and bear it as we await the data, troubling as these may have been for most of the last two and a half months.
For now, what matters most to a lot of folks is that we are restarting our lives and that of the rest of the country today. Or should we say starting a new life, as it were, a new phase of a struggle affected by this pandemic never before experienced in modern history. So what are we to expect from hereon?
Well, for starters we will still be under quarantine. Not back to what we were used to. We will be a bit freer from a complete lock down but for all intents and purposes we will be under guard. We will have to abide by certain health protocols: wearing of masks, social distancing and constant cleaning and washing of hands. We will still have a lingering stay-at-home routine except for a number of things we are allowed to do outside the house and at given periods. Yes, an unannounced curfew remains the norm although we will probably not have as many checkpoints along the way.
Today, will also mark the beginning of a train of questions and explanations about what we have done and will be doing as we break free, from the fears, apprehensions and the unknowns about this outbreak which has literally turned out lives and that of the world upside down. We know for a fact that only the discovery of a vaccine and hopefully, a cure, will calm down the waters and get us to move faster than the baby steps which will surely be the norm in the next weeks or even months from now instead of the galloping moves we had expected or planned to do before COVID-19 struck us all down.
And, together with our tentative steps towards a full restart, there will be a lot of questions. Whatever happened to the strategies, plans, protocols and, of course, funds which have been laid out on the table before and during the imposition of ECQ? What is the status of our agreed medical response to this outbreak: test, isolate, trace, isolate, protect? How far are we from achieving the desired outcome to get our fears out of the window and our mojo back on track? How much have we spent to combat this pandemic? What is now the state of our economy? How much have been lost during this lock down?
What about our workers? How many jobs have been lost and how many will remain employed? How many businesses survive and for how long? What are we to do now with the thousand and one things which we must do to get the entire country and its 107-million strong population (that includes the OFWs and other Filipinos overseas) intact and raring to go and rebuild the country and their lives? What lies ahead and what should be the new contract which we the people have with the state(government) and with each other?
Indeed, this day, June 1, should be the start of a national effort to define and make something of that societal norm called the New Normal. What is it really and how are we expected to adopt and act under this new arrangement: as individuals, as a family, as a community and as a country and a member of the family of nations. While we maintain that each and every individual must assume and has a responsibility for his or her own upkeep and future it behooves our leaders - political, social, economic, spiritual - to provide the overarching guide and direction if we expect to heal and move as one.
What lessons have we learned from this lockdown? What innovations should we put in place? What new activities, new modes of doing things, what new growth models have we come to appreciate which were just shrugged off or set aside previously as we rushed doing things in the old ways? What new industries and businesses should we champion? What old habits do we have to discard? What new trends and innovations in other countries should we try? We have the chance to now break new grounds and blaze new trails.
We have been through a number of struggles before. We expect our people to rise up to the challenge and, of course, the opportunities which this new stage in our life as a country will provide. We can do no less.