Come on, guys. The rising number of COVID-19 cases, all the cars out on the road, the coronavirus spreading among public transportation personnel—we all saw a return to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) coming. It was inevitable.
As each day under general community quarantine (GCQ) passed, the likelihood of another lockdown grew. The breaking point was a desperate call from frontline healthcare workers for a “timeout,” and for the government to rethink its strategy in battling COVID-19. At least one of those requests was granted.
Now, here we are again talking about a return to GCQ this coming week. Will we see fewer cars and people out and about this time, or is it going to be the same old story as before? Here are a few changes that we think must be made for GCQ to be more successful this time around:
1) Allow fewer businesses to open.
Authorities may want to re-evaluate what establishments are and are not allowed to operate under GCQ. As it stands, plenty of non-vital services and businesses are permitted to open their doors during this type of quarantine, including gyms, Internet cafes, and even grooming services. Do any of these sound like essential services to you? We didn’t think so.
Look, we’re sure a lot of gym buffs are eager to get some reps in, and a lot of us are in dire need of a haircut. These activities can wait, though, as authorities and medical personnel try and figure out how to better handle the pandemic.
2) Make more services by appointment only.
Speaking of businesses allowed to operate, maybe other establishments can borrow a page from local automotive dealerships and make their services by appointment only. Banks and self-service laundromats are two services that can adopt this strategy. Hell, some emission testing centers don’t even offer this option.
3) Try out limited operations for motorcycle taxis, with only essential workers allowed as passengers.
The idea behind the backriding shield is noble, we get it: It’s supposed to shield motorcycle passengers from riders who are potentially carrying COVID-19, and vice versa. It’s just it’s a pretty unsafe way to go about it.
But it is what it is—as Mayor Vico Sotto of Pasig City put it, “Pero sa ngayon wala tayong choice kung gusto nating umangkas, kailangan daw ’to.” And since the latest backriding protocols under GCQ had already been established just before Metro Manila reverted back to MECQ, it makes sense to allow backriding immediately upon the reimplementation of less stringent quarantine restrictions. Making things harder for riders and backriders simply gives people fewer transportation alternatives to choose from, forcing them to travel in the air-conditioned confines of a car or via public transportation.
4) Set up more drive-through testing centers.
A handful of drive-through COVID-19 testing centers have already been put up, but we’re willing to bet we aren’t the only ones who think Metro Manila could benefit from a few more of these facilities. They allows car owners—some of whom may already be carrying the coronavirus—to get tested within the confines of their vehicle, lessening the risk others will catch it and reducing the strain on hospitals and clinics that already have their hands full at the moment.
5) Implement QR codes for shuttles.
Several days ago, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) began implementing a QR code system for its free shuttle service, eliminating the need for log in details using pen and paper. Starbucks also uses this seamless format. Essentially, this makes the entire setup contactless, which is both safer and more convenient for frontline healthcare workers. We think this is something more shuttle services should look into implementing.
6) Think very carefully about carpooling.
On paper, carpooling among co-workers is a great way to deal with the current shortage of public transportation. But it’s also a great way to potentially catch COVID-19, regardless of whether or not social distancing is observed inside a vehicle. Remember: The air inside a vehicle recirculates.
You see, there’s simply no telling where your fellow carpoolers have been or who they’ve come into contact with. And since regular testing of passengers is out of the question for most car owners, carpooling should just be limited to people residing in the same household—especially if you live with people who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
7) Bring back stricter checkpoints.
Let’s be honest: Plenty of checkpoints currently in place are just for show. We can’t even count the number of times we’ve simply been waved through one with nary a show of a quarantine pass or any form of identification. Authorities seriously need to do a better job at clamping down on motorists. Random mobile checkpoints could be a potential solution: If these change day by day, people are less likely to venture out thinking they can easily bypass known checkpoint locations.
8) Improve customer service.
Internet service providers might be a hot topic when it comes to customer-service issues, but it’s hardly the most pressing. Some essential services still require people to head out to get things accomplished, because they can’t get through the online/phone/email customer-service portals. And while these platforms aren’t accessible to everyone, having a good system in place will still help lessen people trekking to offices.
Do you have any other suggestions? Feel free to leave them in the comments.