I spent a week in Manila, working for the World Bank and supporting the Government of the Philippines on an exciting infrastructure asset management project.
The week started well, with a range of meetings with leadership and teams from government departments to discuss the project and gather information. Our team was privileged to see some exciting initiatives that the Government of the Philippines is developing.
Before I travelled to Manila, I, of course, undertook a risk assessment about COVID-19. At that point, there were 20 cases in the Philippines, a country of 110 million population. All patients were relatively well-contained.
I read up about air transport risks and worked out the steps I needed to undertake to stay safe. I decided the actual risk was incredibly low if sensible precautions were taken, so I travelled.
I was impressed with how responsive and well-organised the authorities and businesses were in both Singapore Airport (where I transited through) and the Philippines.
At the airports, everyone coming off the aircraft was screened for temperature and had to fill out a health questionnaire.
In Manila, we were security and temperature screened every time we entered a government building or major private office building. Even the restaurants and cafes at the hotel had temperature screening before entering. It was all very well organised and efficient.
So by the middle of the week, having been temperature screened about ten times a day, at least I knew my temperature was good. I was, of course, super careful with hand washing, hand sanitising, not touching surfaces and social distancing during the week.
As the week progressed, more COVID-19 cases came to light in Manila in the part of the city where we were staying, and as a precautionary measure, our Thursday and Friday meetings were cancelled. I travelled back to NZ on Thursday and arrived Friday morning.
It was a very interesting week in Manila, watching a metro area of 24 million people progressively shutting down.
The traffic was super light, and journeys that would typically take two hours were getting completed in 30 minutes. In that regard, the stay was enjoyable. Service in cafes and restaurants was super good, too, because there weren’t that many people.
Having returned to New Zealand well before the mandatory self-isolation requirements, I had to decide what was next. I have chosen to voluntarily self-isolate as a professional courtesy to my staff and clients.
There is an extremely small possibility that I have been exposed the COVID-19 despite all my precautions and care, and at this time, safe and preventive measures are the best pathway forward.
Then I noted on Wednesday evening, 18th March 2020, that the NZ Government is requesting the course of action I have taken in self-isolating.
So I am six days into a 14-day self-isolation, happily working from home, and completely healthy (as far as I know).
One week in Manila has included the following two weeks at home. I am spending more time with my family, and getting plenty of asset management work done, so all is good.