By Pebbles Mendoza
Many mayors and governors have recently extended their lockdown orders until the end of September. The LGUs have done a splendid job so far in keeping Boracay and much of Aklan COVID-19 free. But maybe now is time for them to start seriously considering the economy as well.
Maybe our officials could publicly address the following questions before any more extensions are put in place:
• What will your provinces economy look like after another month of enforced stasis?
• How many families will have to continue without jobs?
• How many businesses will have closed for good?
• How many people are literally going hungry?
• How are our children coping?
Last April, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the city’s economy would be shut down for another two weeks until May 15, instead of reopening on April 29 as previously scheduled. This is what has continuously happened on Boracay – extension after extension.
Cuomo’s operating principle, he said, was to “do no harm.” But had harm to people’s livelihoods been factored into the extension decision? Have the powers that be consulted with small business owners about their ability to survive another month without customers?
First, in Cuomo’s words, “How important is a business to society, how essential is it?” Second, “How safely can the business operate?” It shouldn’t be the role of a politician to have to decide how essential a business is. Consumers should decide. And, to its employees, every business is essential.
A large proportion of New York state COVID-19 deaths occurred in nursing homes and other care facilities for the elderly. Yet counties with no deaths, and/or no nursing homes are having their economic lifeblood sucked out of them, though they bear no resemblance to New York City. This is similar to what we are experiencing on Boracay. No positive cases, yet still subject to the same quarantines as Luzon or other parts of the country that do have cases.
New York residents were inundating the officials’ offices with concerns about the “devastating impact” of the shutdown on the region’s economy. “Why were upstate counties subject to the same restrictions as New York City?” they asked. Shouldn’t Boracay residents and businesses be asking the same question to our officials? Why are we suffering.
In the Philippines we have just over 2,600 COVID-19 related deaths from a population of 109 million. There’s no reliable data yet of how many job losses (estimates are between 7 to 10 million), but just take a look around you on the island – almost everywhere is closed…
I’m seriously worried about the longterm effects of isolation on our next generation. No schools open, kids can’t play outside, almost totally cut off from society and their friends, and, probably afraid inside because their little lives have changed so much. Fear causes mental anxiety and depression. This traumatic period in time could haunt them for many years to come and shape their lives adversely. The recent spate of suicides on Boracay is tantamount to what I am saying – to date, six deaths and a worrying number of attempted suicides.
The devastation to individuals and businesses ability to survive may soon become irreversible. Surely government decision making should now consider turning toward fully opening up the economy. Officials should justify, through a transparent analysis of costs, benefits and possible health risks, all further mandates to prevent people from going to work. Otherwise, there may be nothing recognisable as our economy to return to, with a resulting cost in human life and wellbeing that will surely overtake anything the virus could inflict.
Open up our Island, country, and the world again. So long as we all behave sensibly and are careful, we can get our lives and economy back. That’s what the New Normal is going to be anyway...