Briones: On the right path

I came across a CNN article that Singapore plans to do away with lockdowns and mass contact tracing. If that doesn’t send shivers down the spine of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, maybe its plan to allow quarantine-free travel and the resumption of large gatherings will.

But that’s exactly the roadmap proposed by three members of the city-state’s Covid-19 task force. Heck, they even want to stop counting the daily coronavirus cases.

Heaven forbid!

They have a new vision for life to return to normal amid the pandemic because they believe that it is possible to live with Covid.

The “zero transmission” model adopted by several countries, the Philippines included, may have avoided large outbreaks, but “its stringent, often punishing quarantine measures, will be almost impossible to maintain as new variants spread, and long term is simply not sustainable,” the three members claim.

Hmm. Sounds familiar?

“The bad news is that Covid-19 may never go away. The good news is that it is possible to live normally with it in our midst,” said Singapore’s Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, in an op-ed in the Straits Times last week.

“We can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening, like influenza, hand, foot and mouth disease, or chickenpox, and get on with our lives.”

Well, isn’t that what Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has been doing in Cebu Province for the past 10 months?

She has come up with the Sugbusog and the Sugbo Negosyo programs, just to name a few, to assist those trying to eke out a living.

Sugbusog encourages non-farmers to grow vegetables in their backyard with the Provincial Government distributing seedlings and other farming tools for free to those who are interested, while the Sugbo Negosyo provides financial assistance to those who want to put up small and medium-sized businesses.

Undoubtedly, the hard lockdowns that were imposed during the first few months of the health crisis had had a great impact on Cebu’s economy, especially the tourism sector.

The ban on travel meant many establishments that catered to tourists were left with no customers.

Perhaps, our neighbors in Singapore heard about the governor’s exploits and realized that her policies have always been based on scientific data that were collected on the ground. She didn’t pull them out of a hat.

And yes, as Cebu has shown, it’s possible for lives to move on and move forward as long as people complied with minimum health standards.

Unlike some national officials who continue to be gripped by fear of this invisible enemy, sometimes coming up with outlandish and stupid requirements like the protective shield between both riders of a motorcycle. Remember that?

And the poor folks who actually went out and bought one could not even get a refund when the government was forced to ignore the thousands of violators or risk further ridicule.

Anyway, so what did the three Singaporean officials say is the key for a lighter approach to the pandemic? High vaccination rates.


But Cebu has so far managed to do a good job at keeping Covid numbers down despite the prevalence of vaccine hesitancy among the majority of its population, especially in the countryside.

Perhaps, recovery will be fast-tracked if the people get the jab.