Too soon for GCQ?

Too soon for GCQ?

After two months of ECQ and one half month of Modified ECQ, Metro Manila goes to GCQ or General Community Quarantine on June 01. Almost everyone shouted “Suicide!”  “Mass Testing not yet done!” We acknowledge the need to boost the economy after 2½ months. However, we should not ignore the DOH report that as of May 29 there are 1,046 new confirmed cases, the highest so far, or a total of 16,634 confirmed cases; pending confirmation of 8k covid-positive tests. It is really a choice between economy or the health and lives of the people. Everyone is afraid to get out of their home yet when new confirmed cases are still soaring.

 The apprehension of going to GCQ is not only the expected surge in confirmed cases but also the problems that go with it.

Going to work in the office – As much as many would like to return to work to earn money and buy foods for the family, they foresee the problem of going to and from the office. With the limited transportation, the working sector would be lucky to get to office on time, and get home early. There is also the possible fare increase since only 50% of the vehicle would be occupied to enforce one-meter physical distancing of passengers.  Some employer may shuttle the workers to and from their home, but not all employers can afford it.

Work from Home – Not all kinds of work can be done at home. There are work that require the workers to do it in the workplace. Likewise, for those who can do the work at home, would the employer allow volumes of sensitive and confidential documents to be brought out of the office and be safe and secured at the employees’ home?

Limited Transportation – Even before the coronavirus pandemic, there is already the problem of transportation. To enforce physical distancing of passengers, there will be long line to take a ride. Will physical distancing in the queue be observed?

How would the employees be paid – The GCQ requires skeleton force in the workplace. To avoid retrenchment, the employers may require shifting of few hours of work per week. How would the employees be paid? Will they get salary as if they work full time? Will the salary be reduced due to shortened work hours? Will the workers be paid during lockdown? Will they get full salary? or reduced salary? or “No Work, No Pay”? Much as our heart goes with the workers, we should also understand the situation of the employers whose business was at a standstill during lockdown. No money comes in, where would they get the money to pay their workers? Big companies may afford it, but not small entrepreneurs.

Absence of mass testing – Despite compliance with health protocols like proper wearing of mask, washing of hands, use of alcohol, thermal scanning, disinfecting the workplace after work hours, is there an assurance that the workplace will not be the source of covid-19 widespread contagion? Going back to work by asymptomatic persons may cause infection of co-workers especially those with co-morbidity, the immuno-compromised, the vulnerable.

 

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The worst thing that a person can do in his lifetime is take advantage of a pandemic to fill his pockets. The Social Amelioration Benefits is the worst corruption that happened during the pandemic. It is supposed to be given to individuals who were badly affected by the lockdown – the tricycle and jeepney drivers, the poor and the middle income earners, the senior citizens, physically disabled (PWDs), solo parents and the like. How did the DSWD come up with the list of beneficiaries? What are the criteria of a beneficiary? Some senior citizens, PWDs, solo parents, middle-income earners were not in the list, they were disqualified by DSWD. My fellow church volunteers during this pandemic were shocked to find in the DSWD list of beneficiaries the names of groceries and store owners, meat stall owners, optical shop owners, those in the upper bracket of the economic ladder. Some of them may have returned the money but how come the DSWD included them in the list when they do not fall in any of thee categories of SAP beneficiaries? Everyone says “the beneficiaries are the friends of DSWD and Barangay officials and whom they know”. When asked, our Barangay Officials said they do not have anything to do with the list, the DSWD prepared it. There you go. The DSWD has lots of explaining to do. Some beneficiaries used the money to “tong-its” gambling and buying liquors.

The Congressmen who approved the Bayanihan Heal as One Law should have appropriated a big chunk of the budget to the purchase of PPEs, hazmat suits and test kits instead of the SAP. The medical practitioners are in dire need of those PPEs, many of them died due to lack of it. Had test kits been purchased and mass testing done, the 2½ months of lockdown would have flattened the curve, the covid-positive isolated, and stem the contagion.

Another source of corruption is the purchase of PPEs or Personal Protective Equipment, hazmat suits and medical supplies like N95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, etc. They are badly needed by the frontliners in the hospitals who died (more or less 31 as of this time and were experts in their respective field of medicines) due to contamination and lack of PPEs. The rule in the medical field is “No PPEs, No service”. The doctors and healthworkers and volunteers who are in the frontline of this pandemic are risking their lives to save others. They need to be protected and shielded from covid-19 and their covid patients. I was so shocked when I learned that our government hospitals procured substandard PPEs. The doctors and nurses said “mabuti na ang substandards kaysa wala” (Substandard PPEs are good enough compared to nothing). Why did the government purchase substandard items for their frontliners knowing that they would not be protected when they are supposed to save the lives of their patients? I was glad when Pres. Duterte required his officials to purchased high end PPEs, even if they are expensive, so that the medical workers are protected from contamination.

 

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Happy Birthday in Heaven to my mother Gloria who passed on 5 years ago at age 97. May she find happiness in the house of the Lord, together with our father Benito, Sr. and our still-born sister Deborah. Happy Birthday also to my brother Benito”Nito” Santiago, Jr. and to Bishop Francis De Leon of Antipolo and former Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kalookan. Lord, please continue to bless them!