By Diana G. Mendoza
Panic grips Filipinos as Philippine capital goes on yet another lockdown
Health department says 8,000 new cases are reported daily mostly from Metro Manila
Manila – Thousands of Filipinos crowded the vaccination sites of the cities of Manila and Las Piñas on the eve of another hard lockdown because of a rumor that the unvaccinated will not receive financial aid from the government as businesses and work came to a stop.
Similar scenes played out in grocery stores as people emptied racks, and on the streets and highways as public transport vehicles and private cars jammed in traffic until late at night like it’s another ordinary day of transport woes.
But the Philippine capital with a 12 million population, though misinformed by fake news, braced up for a lockdown, called ECQ or enhanced community quarantine, the third since the first lockdown on March 16, 2020 when the coronavirus has caused illness on the first few patients. Another lockdown was imposed last April as new Covid-19 cases spiked to as high as 7,000 daily.
Metro Manila’s lockdown mode from Aug. 6 to 20 is meant to prepare for a surge in cases due to the more contagious Delta variant. A few hours to the start of the two-week ECQ, the Department of Health reported that the daily tally of new cases has reached 8,000, mostly from Metro Manila.
Nationwide, there are more than 1.6 million cases and more than 28,000 deaths. Only more than 10 million out of the government’s target of 70 million are fully vaccinated.
Dr. Jonas del Rosario, spokesperson for the Philippine General Hospital, the country’s premier referral center, said “we are filled to capacity, with most new cases infected with the Delta variant, and mostly unvaccinated.”
He said there are now child patients, who probably got sick from infected adult household members. The health care system is expected to be overwhelmed.
The ECQ means that only essential establishments are allowed to operate, with minimal workforces. Gatherings and dining in restaurants are prohibited, as well as travel outside of Metro Manila or from one city to another inside the capital.
Low-income residents are the hardest hit by lockdowns that’s why they depend on the government’s financial aid.
Mobility restrictions always means difficulty, even loss of income and jobs. Anette Rial, a 35-year-old high school teacher, says it has been more than a year since she has been doing online teaching. “I share similar difficulties with my students and I pity them because they miss in-person schooling.”
Her husband Jimbo, a contractor, said he looks away at lockdown difficulties and instead watches the ongoing 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo where Filipino athletes are performing well and giving their countrymen a reason to celebrate.
“We already have a gold and a silver medal. I’m hooked at how the rest of the athletes will win,” he said.
But not all Filipinos have Jimbo’s mindset, as mental health services are on high demand for those trying to cope with anxiety, depression and other mental and emotional conditions.
A poll by mental health organization MindNation showed Filipino employees rating their mental wellness at work at 6.5 during the pandemic, down from 8 before the health crisis. The frequently typed keywords in search volumes now are “psychologists near me,” and searches for therapy plants, oils, lamps, coloring books, tea and candles.
The health department encourages people to be in touch with family and friends, to talk about their feelings and be mindful of their health. Filipinos may be known to be resilient and sociable, but the pandemic has some of them not feeling okay in a parallel mental health epidemic.