By Nancy I. Maanao
Kandit asked the Joint Information Center a simple question about the governor's road closure policy two Saturdays ago:
Considering the inherent risk of spreading the (Corona)virus that comes with the contact between drivers and Guardsmen and Police and the dissemination of papers... do Public Health and the government believe that the educational value of these roadblocks outweigh the risk of exposure and spread?
Now two weeks in practice, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's pinching of the major roadways of the island started as a theory that such action could stem the spread of the infection of the virus. But little else was said about how that might come to be.
Aerial and on-the-ground footage of traffic extends hundreds of cars deep in either direction of a road closure. Cars now idle anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes waiting to get through the impasse. Much of the traffic occurs between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., lending weight to the criticism that the bulk of people on the roads during this public health emergency are people going to and leaving work, and not flagrant violators of the social isolation policy.
Businessman and activist Ken Leon Guerrero a couple weeks ago began pointing out the increasing contact among people as a result of the stop each car has to make before setting off from each road block. Drivers must roll down their windows and Guardsmen and police officers have to interact with the occupants of each car before passing an information flier over to the driver of each vehicle.
The interactions do not last long, nor do they happen in confined spaces. And while the Guardsmen and police officers are donning face masks and wearing gloves, the close interaction becomes riskier, when an occupant of a vehicle coughs or sneezes, or vice versa.
What of the safety and health of the Guardsmen and police officers? Their families? What about the strain on police resources and the contraction of police presence in neighborhoods as police are seeing an increase in family violence cases?
There is an inherent risk that the road blocks are having the opposite effect of the governor's set out goal.
The public, then, is left to surmise that perhaps the educational value of these roadblocks far outweigh the risk of spreading the virus. Perhaps there is a need to get the information that is printed on those fliers further out into the community, and these roadblocks present a worthwhile opportunity to infiltrate the island with this information.
If this is the case, the government isn't saying so. It has refused to confirm whether this is in fact the value of these roadblocks. Of course, if they did confirm this is the goal, we would ask how effective they have been at reaching their goal. After two weeks, is there evidence that this policy has helped far more than the problems that these road closures have caused?