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The endurance of the Filipino

The general story of the May 4-10, 2020 SWS national mobile phone survey is about the endurance of the Filipino people.

Last week, I wrote that the public’s fear of infection by COVID-19 is tremendous, exceeding all fears in the survey records.

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The survey showed that the great majority of Filipinos are aware of the proper precautions, and actually practice them; deviants are only few (“SWS May 4-10, 2020 COVID-19 Mobile Phone Survey, Report No. 4: Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, 77% of Filipinos always use a face mask, 68% always wash their hands, and 64% always keep ‘social distance,’” www.sws.org.ph, 5/25/20).

The May survey showed that the proportion of families suffering hunger doubled from last December. It was because the government-ordered lockdown throttled the people’s livelihoods, not because of problems with the food supply. Food deprivation would have been much worse were it not for the social amelioration. But such a program cannot continue indefinitely (“Hunger, fear, caution, dependency,” Opinion, 5/30/20).

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The people have been patient. Conscious of the need for cooperation to limit the spread of the virus, the people were still very patient about the restrictions put on their mobility, in early May (“Report No. 7: 84% say strict stay-at-home measures due to COVID-19 are worth it,” www.sws.org.ph, 6/4/20).

While patient with the regulations, the people were nonetheless chafing for release. Personal lives and livelihoods normally entail leaving home from time to time, to go to fairly many establishments—which should therefore be allowed to operate—and having assured means of transportation to get there and return home.

Thus, after two months of quarantine, four out of every five Filipinos were anxious for relief. This is in the survey’s Report No. 8: “The suspension of public transport is burdensome for 77% of families; the shutdown of private businesses and stores is burdensome for 80%,” www.sws.org.ph, posted on 6/5/20.

At present, with the government’s ban already lifted on so many activities, it’s no wonder that the people are frustrated with the government’s reluctance to likewise release its controls over the normal means of public transportation.

Why discriminate against jeepneys? Most maddening of all is the government’s prejudice against the common man’s favorite vehicle, the jeepney. I wrote long ago: “Of all the restrictions laid down by the government’s lockdown policy, the one that causes sacrifice to the great majority of people is the total shutdown of jeepneys and tricycles from public operation” (“Restore jeepneys and tricycles,” Opinion, 3/21/20).

Putting distance between people in a jeepney is simple: (a) place a transparent plastic divider down its spine, to separate the passengers of the left-side and the right-side benches, the ones who sit facing each other; (b) have a plastic divider to separate the driver from the passengers; (c) require the driver and the passengers to wear both face masks and face shields; (d) if desired, put plastic dividers between the passengers also, thus providing each with a personal cubicle.

The cost of installing such facilities is far less than the cost of eliminating jeepney travel completely. The COVID-19 virus is contracted from (infected) people, not from vehicles. All vehicles are capable of being sanitized.

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Why discriminate by age? The fact that the very old and very young are relatively more vulnerable to COVID-19 does not justify draconian government limitations to their mobility. They themselves will not venture out for flippant reasons. Senior citizens have leadership responsibilities. Children need professional dental care from time to time. Pregnant women who are employed do not deserve to be deprived of their livelihood. Neither should healthy employees of age 15-19 (the legal working age is 15), who contribute to family income.

COVID-19 cannot be contracted from the air. My authority for this is Michael L. Tan (see his column “’Hangin’ and the virus,” Opinion, 6/3/20). Dr. Tan is an SWS Fellow.

COVID-19 cannot be contracted from cooked food, as long as it is sanitary. One should be more wary of its packaging, especially the one-time-use plastics. My authority for this is Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, health adviser to Social Weather Stations, who has reviewed our SWS health protocols.

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TAGS: Coronavirus, COVID-19, Fear, Filipinos, hunger, pandemic, survey, survey records, SWS
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