Are we ready for a downgrade?

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In five days, maybe even less, we will know whether our quarantine status will be downgraded or not. Though I have grown tired of listening to the musings of a manic leader, I will make an effort come Monday to listen to the announcement of the NIATF.

There is no point in asking local leaders what they feel should be our direction as they are so obviously dependent on what the national IATF will declare. It may even be more worthwhile to ask Gen. Mel Feliciano what he thinks should be our status come October 1, as he is part of the group who will make a recommendation to the NIATF.

Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran said yesterday, that based on his personal view, Bacolod might be downgraded since our cases have dipped to double digits. Figures though are not consistently declining as we had 95 new cases last Thursday and with only 47-beds available for COVID  cases in our hospitals, what our status next week will be anybody’s guess.

Photographer, Ronnie Baldonado, posted on social media yesterday how near-empty SM City Mall looks that that even the Christmas decors on display can’t liven up the atmosphere. That was a stark image of the state of our economy.

Thus, it is quite ironic to read the announcement that Bacolod has been chosen anew as a national finalist for ‘Most Business-Friendly’ city awards by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Tell that to the many businesses that have closed shop. Tell that to the thousands who have been retrenched from their jobs. Tell that to mall concessionaires who have been losing hundreds of thousands or probably even more had it not been for the benevolence from mall operators who understood the plight of their tenants.

I will be first to wave the green flag and boast of our achievements if the reality on the ground shows we are truly in better economic conditions. But we are not. I am not sure if the PCCI is looking at us with rose-tinted glasses because anyone in town will surely share their woes on the kind of service we get from our utility companies which I think is part of the assessment to declare one as business-friendly.

Since online classes have started, nary a week passed by when there is no power interruption or voltage fluctuations. Add to that the slow-internet connection we usually experience, both of which are vital in business operations.

I cannot even understand how the PCCI can continue giving such awards when not one LGU in the country is spared by the economic doldrums we are in. That’s why some of these awards are actually silly, if not downright deplorable, as it makes a mockery of our present conditions.

Meanwhile, I have been receiving plenty of news shares from the internet about medical experts allegedly disputing health protocols, such as lockdowns, quarantine, even wearing of masks as a fallacy that intends to control populations.

Of course I have always been skeptical about these claims, especially after seeing that press conference of doctors in the US that sided with people who defy health protocols as it infringes on their civil liberty rights. Among those so called experts was clearly a quack one. Besides, it is better to listen to advise from local doctors, including my sister and niece, who have seen COVID up close.

There too are numerous articles on the so-called ‘herd immunity’ happening in Sweden which has been passed on by friends, most of whom are advocating for the lifting of strict community quarantine protocols, especially our present one under MECQ.

An interesting article from the Associated Press looked into Sweden’s controversial approach to the pandemic as the country never went on a national lockdown unlike its neighbors in the European community.

Yet, Sweden has had lower cases, a little over 90,000, than the rest of Europe. However, their mortality rate though is higher than 5 percent of total cases when most countries are seeing less than 2 percent only.

Even the World Health Organization is keen at looking at Sweden’s approach. But while pictures of Swedes openly eating in cafés are enviable, the report said that there are not that many people going around as “most of the changes involved voluntary actions by citizens rather than rules imposed by government.”

In short, Sweden is largely successful in containing their cases because government trusted their people to shoulder personal responsibility in dealing with the pandemic. The big question is, can we trust our people to do the same?*

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