THREE weeks into the lockdown of Metro Manila and other major urban areas in the Philippines, the government must now craft appropriate strategies to end this draconian but necessary means of containing the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
As I will try to explain here, such post-lockdown strategies are part and parcel of our war to defeat this plague, and its implementation has to start soon. The government must consult with local governments, the medical community, the private sector and others to develop such strategies.
While there could still be sudden spikes of infection and even deaths, and the colossal United States and European failure in dealing with the pandemic could affect us, it is reasonable to conclude that the lockdown has worked in containing Covid-19’s exponential growth.
It is rampaging in the US because Americans, and their political leadership, refuse to impose such lockdown. “That will create civil war,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo even said when President Donald Trump floated the idea of that state’s lockdown.
But the lockdown strategy has its huge costs: it means a cessation of production and other economic activities. The longer we have a lockdown, the more people won’t have livelihoods, more of the poorest will starve, worse will be the damage to the economic system.
Even government’s P200-billion financial parachute for the poor will quickly run out. Simply having the central bank print more money — as tax revenues have and will fall because of the lockdown — to fund similar lifelines risks hyperinflation that would make the peso worthless.
We have to gradually end the lockdown, which means circumspectly allowing economic activity — i.e., factories, offices and distributors — to resume in an orderly manner. If we simply return everything to normal, that is, lift the enhanced community quarantine tomorrow, we risk some straggler virus force from spreading again exponentially, throwing back to the end-February status and maybe even more.
I list below a few elements of such a post-lockdown strategy. (more…)