Not counting the compromises, the first few days of the relaxed General Community Quarantine felt like our old lives.
People went to work, ate out, and breathed a sigh of relief underneath their face masks. For a brief moment, easing the community quarantine to reboot the economy felt right. Then that moment ended.
Spikes in new positive COVID-19 cases came in waves. As of writing, the Philippines is tending to 68,898 confirmed cases. Yet it insists it’s too late to return to a tighter community quarantine, involuntarily passing on the burden of strategy to its citizens.
Thus, this question falls onto the citizens: is fulfilling our cravings at our favorite restaurant an ethical thing to do during the pandemic?
The risk of restaurant business
For people who depend on jobs to make ends meet — the servers, the busboys, the custodians — there’s no debate. Between the risk of losing their job and the risk of getting the virus, they will unanimously choose the latter, because if the virus doesn’t come for them first, then starvation will.
Besides, there are various protective clothing that can curb their odds of catching COVID-19, right?
Sadly, there are still plenty of scenarios where they can come in contact with the virus. On their way to work, in indoor restaurants with poor ventilation, on surfaces which less-than-cautious customers have touched — all these places pose risk of contracting the still-incurable sickness.
Thus, restaurant workers are left with no choice: to buy their own food, they need to serve it first.
The difficult ethical dilemma
When the government frames the decision to ease the quarantine as a favor to the economy, it becomes easy to think that our mere patronage is a favor to our fellow countrymen. But can we, the ever-hungry diners, really call it that?
Yes and no. Yes, because walking into a buffet place for lunch helps that many people with our attendance. And no, because we’re also unknowingly endangering the health of the very same people with, well, our attendance.
Yes, because our support towards businesses helps in keeping jobs afloat.
And no, because no restaurant server should leave their job security to the diner in front of them ordering extra rice, when there are mandated public officials in charge of ensuring that.
So is dining out a good or bad thing to do? It’s a difficult ethical dilemma, but don’t worry, we don’t have to answer it; we just have to ask ourselves. That is, if we’re really concerned about fulfilling our civic duties instead of justifying our privilege to dine out.
We have to ask ourselves because it helps in keeping us from going out when we suddenly miss authentic ramen or crave for unlimited samgyupsal.
More importantly, we have to ask ourselves because it forces us to look for better solutions to meet everyone’s desired ends. This can range from having food delivered instead up to urging your local government for financial assistance and better working conditions for restaurant workers.
It’s a tough choice but, hey, at least we have them.