Fairplay Update On Coronavirus: What Does the Metro Manila Lockdown Mean? And How Can We Stop it From Destroying Poor Communities?

As news of the Metro Manila lockdown begins to spread, Fairplay must suspend our usual activities. Instead, we will be pursuing ways of making the lockdown easier for our community in Payatas, given they are likely to be without any way to work for the next month.

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Activities like our sports sessions will need to be suspended for now.

No doubt many of you are aware Metro Manila is entering a state of ‘lockdown’ as announced by the Philippine government. From March 15 to April 14, Metro Manila will be restricting travel, business, and social activities. The exact details of the lockdown still remain confusing due to conflicting announcements from different government departments, however there are some things we know for sure.

  • Classes have been suspended.
  • Travel into Metro Manila will be restricted, with government checkpoints stationed in many areas around the borders of Metro Manila as well as between cities in Metro Manila. 
  • Mass gatherings will not be allowed and other social activities are discouraged. 

What’s the Purpose of a Lockdown?

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The ‘flattening the curve’ model. Picture c/o CDC.

A lockdown of an area is intended to slow the spread of a disease. There is no expectation that it will entirely stop the spread of a virus, but it is intended to slow the spread or ‘flatten the curve’, so the healthcare system has a chance to deal with all the cases.

As the picture above shows, from the Center for Disease Control, by slowing the rate of infection we can ensure the healthcare system does not get overwhelmed. This is one of the reasons we see the death rate from coronavirus around the world vary dramatically, based on access to, and quality of, healthcare. This is evident in the picture below, one of Information is Beautiful’s photo album of the best statistics related to the coronavirus.

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Even if a lockdown would not reduce the eventual number of cases (it probably will), there is a big difference having 100 cases every week for six weeks and in having 600 cases all in one week, all needing intensive care, and. One is manageable, the other is a disaster. 

How Many Cases Are There in the Philippines?

Officially, the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in January. Two more were confirmed in February, before a lot of cases were confirmed in March and at the time of writing (March 14), there are now over 100 confirmed from the last few days. It’s worth saying the confirmed cases are only those with positive test results. Many cases remain undetected due to the lack of testing kits as well as some people being asymptomatic, or showing mild symptoms.

In the Philippines we can therefore expect the number of confirmed cases to continue rising sharply as testing kits become more and more available. After all you don’t have any confirmed cases if you’re not testing anyone. The work at the University of the Philippines, in producing a faster and much more affordable testing kit, appears to be an excellent example of research at its finest. The result will, ironically, be a dramatic rise in the number of confirmed cases, but that’s actually a sign of progress in the fight against coronavirus, it means an improvement in detecting the disease. In the same way, South Korea ranks highly in the number of confirmed cases because they have been able to test so many people. As the number of confirmed cases rapidly rises with the ability to properly test patients, containing and curing the disease will obviously need to come next.

How Will Fairplay Respond to the Lockdown?

The lockdown does mean, however, that our sports trainings, youth groups, EQ Club, Mothers’ Club, and tutorials will be postponed for at least the next two weeks. As we see how the lockdown is enacted, what is finally announced by the government as to the exact rules, we will plan and update accordingly.

We are also planning for emergency scenarios in case we will need to provide a lot more emergency care in the coming weeks. In particular, this is because of the bigger dangers of a lockdown.

What is the Bigger Danger of a Lockdown?

If improperly done, a lockdown can become dangerous for those in the quarantined areas. Many people will not be able to work and their livelihood will be affected, potentially bankrupting families and businesses. And if quarantined with no money for food, water, and other basic needs, and with no way to earn, we know a sharp rise in crime and rioting is likely.

Many governments around the world are trying to ease these potential problems of a lockdown. Italy, for example, imposed a strict lockdown on the whole country, but are also suspending mortgage payments.

In poorer areas, however, such measures are not typically done. In the Philippines, some estimates suggest 1 in 4 people live in informal settlements, slums, where land titles are not granted so mortgage payments are irrelevant. They do, however, still pay rent and have basic needs to take care of.

In Payatas, there are anywhere between 120,000 and half a million people (based on the government or academic data used) and most of them have no monthly source of income. They rely on daily work, like millions others in Metro Manila. They do not have money to spend on health tests or treatment, and they do not have money to feed their families if they do not work today. A lockdown for one month is devastating in this circumstance.

That doesn’t mean a lockdown is unjustified. If it can slow the spread of the disease to allow the healthcare system to work through it, that’s a big-win. It does mean, though, we need to ensure the unintended consequences of a lockdown do not hurt the families we wanted to protect from the disease in the first place. Most of the recommendations, both the serious and the not so much; staying at home, being on your cellphone, taking a vacation, discovering new places in your house, and so on, only work if you are Middle Class and can afford to do that. If you cannot afford that and you and your family begin to go hungry, the impact of the lockdown could cause even more damage for the coming months and years ahead.

Already families in Payatas are saying they are hungry. Already they are beginning to skip meals. Our concern is the potential panic such a lockdown will create. Over time, people become more and more desperate, and desperate people do desperate things.

This is why Fairplay is suspending our social activities, from tutorials to youth groups, from our mothers’ club to our sports sessions, and we are now assessing our next steps for action. Further announcements will be due early next week as we gain clarity of what shape the lockdown will take, what support, if any, is offered to the people in our community, and what support and help we will need to provide in the meantime.

We certainly hope it is a temporary solution and within the next week we will have greater clarity about the next steps forward. Until then, we hope you and your families are also safe and well taken care of as we all work together to beat this virus and limit the damage the virus and the social impact has on families in every community.

If you or someone you know has possible symptoms of corona virus (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), call the DOH Hotline: (02) 8-651-7800 local 1149-1150



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