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For us working class, ‘social distancing’ doesn’t cut it

The Atlantic’s new piece is on social distancing and why it will save us all. If one searches the said article on Twitter, it will lead to tweets like: “radical social distancing right now will save thousands” or “we must start radical measures NOW.” Radical measures meaning implementing work from home for employees, class suspension, and if you’re a privileged yuppie, hopping on the next cheap flight to your tropical destination of choice. It sounds easy enough, right?

Well, if you’re part of the working-class—social distancing is impossible. It’s a privilege because most of us Filipinos don’t have the luxury of self-isolation at all. 

“MRT, LRT, buses, jeeps, slum areas, paano natin sila poprotektahan?” 

The new buzzword of the week is social distancing. As The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah phrases it, social distancing aims to prevent people from congregating in one place. It is the reason why music festival szn is canceled and why Green Day and Avril Lavigne chose their health over fueling your nostalgia for early 2000s pop-punk. 

People’s social lives aren’t the only things being affected here. Few offices across the country are implementing work from home, The Department of Education (DepEd) mandates schools to adopt social distancing for the rest of the school year, and mass gatherings are a no. The world’s solution right now is The Atlantic’s headline: Cancel everything. 

So where do commuter warriors go? How about the folks by the slums? Or folks who need to line up in queues for their daily needs? Your PUV drivers, Angkas riders, and ride-sharing app employees—what about them? 

“I would like to see how the government applies the concept of ‘social distancing’ to the poor, who queue, travel, and live in confined spaces not because they want to, but because they have no choice,” journalist Chiara Zambrano tweeted. “MRT, LRT, buses, jeeps, slum areas, paano natin sila poprotektahan?” 

Can we socially isolate ourselves from our country’s 7.73 trillion debt? Or how this establishment is anti-poor? I sure would like to, if I can. 

Officials aren’t wrong when they said it might save everyone. Social distancing can save everyone, but not everyone can afford to do so.  And yet, there are still thousands using public transportation because it’s the affordable way to get by, workers still go to their jobs ‘cause working from home doesn’t apply to everyone, folks are still queuing to payment centers since data is not accesible, and people in the slums literally have nowhere to go. 

The truth is: social distancing is a right, but it is, unfortunately, a luxury. 

Our public healthcare proves how difficult social distancing is as an end-all solution to COVID-19. In an Inquirer article, they stated that the Philippine General Hospital reflects Philippine healthcare’s current state. “Sobrang understaffed. Twelve to 15 patients per nurse per shift, compared sa ideal na four patients lang per nurse per shift,” says Mary Grace Villanueva, a BS nursing graduate from PGH’s administrator and operator University of the Philippines Manila. She tells us in an interview, “Kung nurse ka, halos 30 minutes ka lang per patient, [so] naco-compromise ’yung care.” 

The truth is: social distancing is a right, but it is, unfortunately, a luxury. 

Officials look at the act of social distancing as an answer, while our own government cut P10 billion off the funding for health services this year. They made this announcement during measles and polio outbreaks late last year. Now, we are facing a big global epidemic and we have no funds to combat it.

Read more: If you see a COVID-19 testing kit, thank these scientists from UP

Can we socially isolate ourselves from our country’s 7.73 trillion debt? Or how this establishment is anti-poor? I sure would like to, if I can. 

At times like these, we wish we can exploit cheap flight tickets, leave our jobs and fall slowly to our parents’ safety net, or enjoy our lives inside a human hamster bubble. But we can’t do any of these luxuries. With that being said, what can we all do?

For now, I quote a tweet from @Magnethic_flux:

Art by Rogin Losa

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