There is no life after COVID-19. There is only life with COVID-19, and we all need to adjust to this new reality.
Officially, we began lifting and loosening quarantine restrictions on May 16. That is supposed to be a positive sign that we are closer to beating this pandemic. So why is it that there is still so much uncertainty?
Workers that were called back to work do so with a mix of relief and dread. Relief that they still have a job, but dread that they are exposing themselves and the families they go home to, to the COVID-19 virus.
If you live in Metro Manila, Laguna or Cebu City, areas considered to be high risk, being under the modified enhance community quarantine (MECQ) should not change your activities (or lack of them) until May 31. Those living in moderate risk areas are now following general community quarantine guidelines (GCQ) and can begin to pick up the pace of their lives before March 16. As for the rest of the country deemed to be low risk and released from quarantine, it is business as usual.
But suppose you live in Laguna but report to work in Cavite? How about running a business in Baguio with a permanent address in Manila? These circumstances will make complying with the quarantine guidelines even more of a challenge, to you, to your employer or employees, and to your families.
If there is something life in a lockdown have made many of us realize, it’s that we can all embrace simpler lifestyles. Yes, there are many things we miss about our pre-pandemic lives. A quick survey among friends and their friends gave me this interesting list of answers: (1) traveling for leisure; (2) karaoke nights; (3) basketball games; (4) dining-in at restaurants; and (5) attending church services. Sadly, all these remain beyond reach of people living with MECQ and GCQ, and now require government permission before they can be reintroduced in our lives.
Until then, in our lives with COVID-19, consider the major time-consuming areas of your life and how you can best to protect yourself. Here are some best-practice examples that may help.
Reporting back to work?
If this is not happening for you today, it will happen one day soon. Maybe you have been working from home, but to keep your job, you will have to physically report back to work at some point in the future.
With MECQ, majority of companies are mandated to embrace a work from home set-up unless they offer essential services. With GCQ, expect alternative work arrangements where you physically show up for work on some days, work from home on other days, or adjust to reduced work hours (and less pay). With quarantine lifted, it will be back to the old grind but ensure safety measures are followed in your workplace.
As much as you can work from home without risking job security, choose this option. Do not worry about getting that long-awaited promotion or promised bonus or salary increase at this time. Remember, health is the true wealth so make that your priority.
One company has informed employees they will be on a two-week rotation, to ensure social distancing can be followed in the office and also to respect the two-week quarantine period for potential virus exposure. In this set-up, employees come to work for two weeks, and then work from home for another two weeks. To me, this seems a smarter virus-containment option than coming to work two to three days a week.
Coping with business travel, and postponing all leisure travel
One of the first COVID-19 cases here in the country is a male patient who confessed he likely contracted it while traveling on vacation to a country that also reported high incidence of infections. He remembers being trapped in a plane for more than 4 hours with a fellow passenger non-stop coughing behind him.
That story cured me of any interest for recreational travel this year, and possibly until next year. Stamp down any interest to explore, even when the airports reopen. f you are holding on to tickets right now, get a refund as soon as you can.
If you must travel for work, find out how the airline is adjusting to life with COVID-19 to ensure you will be following all their passenger guidelines. And I suggest you do all that – and more. Bring your own face mask, wear a face shield over it, have spray-on sanitizers handy, even put on a full body PPE. After all, who does not want to have a 100% chance of returning home COVID-19 virus-free?
Who wants to go to school in the time of pandemic?
Whether you are the student or you are parents to students, what to do for the coming school year is a tough decision.
Many schools have started to reach out to their students explaining a new model of learning: from using cloud to online lectures. Some have postponed school opening dates, while others are more optimistic and say it will still happen this year. Sadly, COVID-19 has also brought a lot of uncertainty to the future of education.
As a parent with a child that goes to a traditional school and another child that is homeschooled, I can tell you with 100 percent confidence that learning does not only happen in classrooms, or when your child is enrolled in a brick and mortar school. The world wide web exploded decades ago with many learning websites and supplemental materials and activities. Check out Khan Academy, Scholastic, IXL, CommonLit, and Illustrative Mathematics.
Before you pay for this year’s tuition, do your homework and look at the many options available, including homeschooling that is more affordable plus something you can now do with a work from home schedule.
Malls have reopened, so what?
Let’s hope that no air-conditioning and no free WiFi will truly dampen Filipinos’ love for malling. Now that shopping centers have reopened across the country, please consider safety rules for yourself and the others who are malling with you.
Before you step out, plan your activities. What do you need to buy? Bills to pay? And then think very carefully if you can do all these from your home or office with online vendor and banks. Protect yourself and the employees of the malls by limiting everyone’s exposure and mobility as much as you can. This is not the time to make ice cream runs whenever you feel like it.
The pandemic will continue to change the way we live, and whether we are in ECQ, MECQ, GCQ or no Q at all, let’s do our share in containing the virus. Keep washing those hands!
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.