Pandemic FOG | Inquirer Opinion
Pinoy Kasi

Pandemic FOG

/ 04:07 AM March 31, 2021

I feel like we, as a nation, are beginning to behave like a child caught in a dysfunctional, even violent, relationship with elders. Even if we know something’s seriously wrong, we endure our suffering because we’re trapped by FOG, a term coined by psychotherapist Susan Forward to describe emotional blackmail, through which an abuser is able to control the person he/she is abusing.

FOG stands for fear, obligation, and guilt.


We are fearful because COVID-19 has been run by the military, what with policemen in camouflage uniforms and bearing long arms and the growing number of abuses being reported, from extortion to a disregard of the rules they’ve created.

Our fear takes another form, a “what if government is right.” We are cited all the time in the world press as having the longest lockdown on the planet and yet suffer the highest infection rates in the region. Government has been wrong by letting the military run the COVID-19 program without listening enough to the scientists.


A science-based approach uses evidence and compassion to guide policies. Even the harshest of lockdown policies, such as the Chinese experience last year, have been tempered by compassion especially for the vulnerable.

It’s worth repeating what I described last week: An order issued early in the Wuhan lockdown, mobilizing health and social workers for child mental health, everything from 24/7 hotlines to advice to parents on giving more “communication time.” In stark contrast we are still sequestering young people below 18 and seniors above 65, not even allowing them to come out for exercise. (This of course has the usual class biases—the upper classes at least have subdivision spaces but even in such places I’m hearing of too much depression and despair.)

Then the O in FOG: Obligation. It’s heartbreaking seeing how battered kids will stay on to care for the abusive parent or parents simply because they want to be filial children.

For the pandemic, we feel obligated to keep our silence. We have been so compliant and obedient to a fault, which is dangerous because we don’t feel we’re allowed to express our views, so we take the route of avoidance.

Why do you think government is having a hard time with contact tracing? Because people do not want to report infections, which would mean loved ones being put in government quarantine and this is not surprising given the threats by the military and police to conduct house to house searches for persons with COVID-19.

Expect more COVID refugees locked in with the uninfected, allowing the virus to spread like tsunami.

Finally there’s guilt as government, who won’t admit they’re in the wrong, continues to berate people for not using masks properly, for not physical distancing. But there is no choice for people, given that open spaces like parks remain restricted. Rural areas, fortunately, still have some space, so vital for both physical and mental health.


Even before COVID-19, we’ve had low trust levels when it comes to government. FOG further pushes down those levels.

Like an abusive parent, government just keeps scolding people for not being responsible. What about their responsibility?

For a year now scientists have called for more efficient testing and, more importantly, to use the statistics scientifically. What we get are shrill voices that only create helpless panic by giving daily reported cases without context. The way to go is to set certain thresholds, for example, 100 new infections per 100,000 people to justify a tightening of restrictions. Then we need to look at the trends, the usual standard being the last seven days. People will be more trusting if the figures are explained, and progress in bringing down incidence being “rewarded” by a careful easing of restrictions.

Last March 19, the National Capital Region incidence was 267/100,000; on March 25, it was 384/100,000.

The figures will be useful only if we do cover the entire population with adequate testing. I cannot believe that the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Mindanao has an incidence of only four per 100,000.

I had to calculate the figures myself from the Department of Health’s own raw statistics, which they’re not using to guide the IATF but then maybe the DOH is caught, too, in the FOG.

Finally, the vaccinations. I checked on Tuesday for the percentage of population that’s been vaccinated (at least one dose) and we are lagging behind our neighbors: Singapore (13.7 percent), Indonesia (2.6 percent), Malaysia (1.4 percent), Cambodia (1.4 percent), Laos (0.6 percent), and then the Philippines (0.5 percent). Consuelo de bobo: Thailand and Vietnam are lower at 0.1 percent and less than 0.1 percent, respectively, but both countries have much lower COVID incidence than we do.

Enough of FOG and emotional blackmail.

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For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, emotional blackmail, Michael L. Tan, pandemic FOG, Pinoy Kasi
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