Almost exactly three years ago, our entire lives were turned upside down by the start of the quarantines and health restrictions, as the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in the Philippines.
For a week, I was asked to report to our offices here in San Pedro, Laguna as our Makati office was locked down – and, if I recall right, traffic at the boundary of Laguna and Metro Manila crawled into an almost complete stop due to the cross-border checkpoints.
Classes were suspended for a week (it later turned out to be two whole years before in-person classes were finally allowed), public transport was severely curtailed, and face masks (which were already in short supply after the eruption of the Taal Volcano) and alcohol became more prized than gold.
Later on, however, former President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a blanket enhanced community quarantine over the entire Mega Manila area. I, along with thousands of other workers, was forced to work from home, quarantine passes and social distancing became the norm, and (can you believe it?) no one was allowed into the streets after noon.
Almost all in-person activities grounded to a halt, businesses were restricted to “essential” sectors, and everyone else except the so-called “frontliners” – doctors, nurses, health workers, peace and security officers – were cooped up inside their homes for three whole months.
For me, it’s like being thrown back into the horror days of Martial Law, even though I’ve never experienced it – being sent into a prison for no fault of our own, with no foreseeable chance of a reprieve or pardon.
Fast forward three years, and for many of us, those days of enhanced community quarantine have become a distant nightmare.
With Covid-19 numbers now down to single digits (and with some days with no additional active cases), authorities have finally loosened all the restrictions that the pandemic had brought.
Businesses have finally gone back to normal, as well as schooling and all other in-person activities.
No one now even bothers about the “Alert Level” classifications imposed by the government. “Enhanced Community Quarantine” and “General Community Quarantine” have all become keywords of a bygone era in our country’s history.
Still, I’m glad to see that many of us still err on the side of caution and continue to abide by the most basic rules of wearing facemasks and frequent sanitation. I guess two years is more than enough for some protocols to become an ingrained habit among us.
Some authorities are now worried, however, that we may be on the way to unlearning the basic lesson Covid-19 has taught us – that prevention, or the prevention of transmission, is far, far better than cure.
With reports of unknown viruses threatening to come out into the open due to climate change and the over-exploitation of the Earth’s resources, it’s quite concerning that after three years of a pandemic that nearly brought the whole world to its knees, many of us have still not learned the vital lessons of one of history’s darkest chapters.