Community Quarantine, a friend told me through his N95 mask, is like living inside a Zip lock bag: you only unzip the bag when you need to buy food and supplies. “It’s for your own good,” he said. “Di ba nga, the less person-to-person contact you have, the less chances of getting infected.” Red sounds like his Mom, which means his inner child wants to go out, but his inner adult knows that that would be irresponsible.

He follows the news. He’s forced to work from home. He’s holed up in his unit. He panic-buys as he waits for his Quarantine Pass to be issued (he still doesn’t have one). The COVID-19 infected count, as of now, has raced past 500. The Luzon semi-lockdown, a government move to curb the spread of the Corona virus (which causes COVID-19), has closed down offices and establishments, ceased mass transport, cut down the work hours of groceries and food merchants, and implemented curfews. It’s a pain to keep unzipping the bag to “expose” yourself.

He sent me a video of someone “losing it” (a guy talks, shot from one camera angle, then cuts to the same guy answering back, but from another camera angle, over and over) plus a message: “I’m nearly this guy. Give it a day. Maybe tomorrow.”

Then, “I gotta go out and buy stuff. Food. Supplies.” I said don’t. Stay inside. Stay safe. Or at least plan your purchases, keep the out and about activity low. In the end, we worked out a way to curb his excursions (but not his wanderlust), to reduce his exposure. The Corona virus, from what news outlets have drilled into us, is transferred via droplets. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, these droplets hit and stay on any surface. When someone who touches that surface touches his eyes or nose, that’s how the virus spreads.

While we all await mass testing, and the conclusion of clinical trials of promising treatments and a vaccine, the only way is to stay away.

Here’s what Red and I worked out (which I hope he abides by):

Do a fund transfer from your GCash app to your bank account, so you don’t have to go out and withdraw money, or top up at 7-eleven. No waiting in line at the ATM, so no chance of physical contact with another person. He’s happy with this.

Stay away from crowded food places. While many restaurants don’t allow dine-ins anymore (only take out), many small mom and pop shops are still open, and are hot (as in warm due to the cooking heat). When it’s hot, people sweat. Confined areas with little ventilation means droplets don’t have much to go around in – except around the people there. Red went OMG when I told him this (there are a few eateries nearby that he frequented before the quarantine).

Order out and go cashless, so you won’t be handing over physical cash to the driver (and you won’t have to worry about exact amount or even change). Not a lot of food merchants have remained open, many opted to keep only select branches operating, and those who stayed open have reduced their service window to suit curfews. But there are exceptions, like Army Navy and Bon Chon. Order online or call them, and the delivery guy will bring a QR code for you to scan-to-pay via the GCash app on your phone.

GCash Scan-to-Pay QR Code

Meticulously plan what you need to buy, to reduce your trips. While many open markets don’t practice social distancing, some supermarkets still do – go there, and go cashless. PureGold is one of them. Before heading out, eat a light meal (to have energy to endure long lines), bring your mask and alcohol spray bottle plus your ecobag, and make sure to charge your phone. After the cashier tallies your groceries, you can generate a QR code via your GCash app, the cashier will scan that code, and the amount will be instantly deducted from your GCash wallet. No cash, no worry about change. Short and sweet.

Scan-to-Pay your meds, too. Again, note the reduced service hours of pharmacies in your area (you can go online to check which branches are open, or hit their social media page and ask). We’re all going to need meds and personal supplies and the following offer scan-to-pay convenience: Mercury Drugstore, Southstar Drug, Watsons, and Rose Pharmacy. While some of these pharmacies offer delivery services, the quarantine has reduced available manpower and may not be available in your area. Again, social media to the rescue. You can check their pages for announcements.

Go online and look for stores (meats, rice, etc.) that offer deliveries and payment via mobile wallets, like GCash and scan-to-pay convenience. We had ordered meats and fish products which arrived two days later. While slightly pricier, it beats the time spent walking to market or to the grocery store and then waling back home with the heavy loads.

GCash app QR code scanning at Glorietta 4

That’s it. I’m not sure if these will curb Red’s cabin fever, but it may reduce his other source of stress – the need to keep going out to buy stuff. I suspect he’s using his little trips to the store to dampen his listlessness, a behavior that’s actually not helping anyone, social isolation-wise.

We’re all glued to our phones anyway – Netflix, TikTok, Instagram (to kill boredom) – so we might as well use it to cut down the need to go outside (GCash and Scan-to-Pay). Stay safe indoors, everyone. Let’s wait out the quarantine together, but separately.