‘No lockdown’ was a lockdown

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The streets of Bacolod looked like a ghost town after people heeded the call to stay at home while mass testing for COVID-19 started yesterday.

The much-publicized 4-day lockdown turned into a “zero-movement” after our local governments’ request was not acted upon by the national Inter Agency Task Force. Thus, no lockdown still looked like a total lockdown as some establishments opted to close shop while only 10 percent of public transport opted to operate even with a go-ahead that they can.

Of course people were quick to slam the confusing messaging from our officials, not because they oppose the lockdown, but because the late issuance of guidelines led to panic buying and mass trooping to public markets.

It was such a contrast to see how eerie and abandoned our streets were yesterday, compared to stalled traffic and hundreds of people ignoring social distancing at our public markets and groceries last Thursday.

Some officials felt that they should not be blamed for the panic buying that ensued as the lockdown was announced way ahead and people should have prepared for it and not wait for the last minute.

While that is true, people cannot be faulted also for panicking after pronouncements that what was supposed to be just a two-day lockdown for Bacolod became a 4-day zero movement. There is a big difference in terms of basic supplies for those two days, more so since it was anybody’s guess whether it will really be implemented or not until the executive order came out late Wednesday night.

This issuance of last minute guidelines was the culprit now, and the culprit then. With the argument that it was announced days before, what made the city government then to wait till the last minute to issue it out?

Add to that the pronouncements too that the 4-day mass testing will be jointly held by Bacolod and the Province of Negros Occidental, which includes joint announcements too as presumed by everybody.

Yet when that time came, only Gov. Bong Lacson was present at the “Timeout Weekend” press conference who announced that there will be no lockdown in the LGUs that are part of the mass testing program, or if there are, it will be under the determination of the respective chief executives.

The main proponent of the OPlan: One Time, Big Time, former Rep. Albee Benitez was nowhere to be seen except in photo releases of their dinner with Gen. Roy Cimatu, Wednesday night.

The Bacolod Provincial Information Office also posted pictures of Mayor Bing Leonardia along with other city officials in conference with Gen. Cimatu the day after and I don’t know why there was a separate briefing between the city and the province when the OPlan calls for a joint operation. Oh well.

Of course those pictures went viral and though it sent a clear message that help is coming for which we ought to be grateful for, the officials lost their moral high ground when they allowed posting of pictures where they are shown not following minimum health protocols.

A picture paints a thousand words and here we have city officials not following their public appeal to observe the one-meter social distancing and the use of face shields. Are they invincible to the virus? None was compliant of the face shield protocol except those who looked like bodyguards at the background.

Well, it is what it is and the law is probably selective. We know that all too well with the mananita. But then, when officials do that, they are providing ammunition to the masses to refuse getting penalized for violating minimum health protocols or worse, to just follow their leaders’ example.

The question now though is whether the 10,000 target will be reached and whether it can provide us accurate data on the extent of spread in our communities. There is also the question of the timeline for test results and whether it will be realized.

I am keeping my fingers crossed but I am hoping that the plan will not go to waste as we need to have a clear picture of the spread so our experts will know what to do next. Last Thursday, we had a high positive result of 75 new cases in Bacolod and 30+ in the province.
We must expect the numbers to rise when mass testing ends and be prepared on how to deal with it.

Gen. Cimatu said Bacolod is averaging 30 cases a day which is a far cry from that of Cebu at 300+ cases daily when he came in the picture. Nevertheless, he said that they will implement the Cebu protocols to bring down our numbers faster for as long as the people will cooperate.

And that’s the key word – cooperate. The first day of the “no lockdown” showed we can cooperate even amidst mixed messaging. Yes, we can still rant and criticize but at the end of the day, government can only do so much and it is still incumbent upon all of us to cooperate for our own safety and the survival of our communities. Let’s prove to them that we can!*

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