Living with the virus
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - August 13, 2020 - 12:00am

Like the different stages of grief, many of us have come to accept the grim reality that we woke up to – the existence of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

Our leaders say we should learn to live with the virus while a vaccine has not yet been developed, or at least the kind that has gone through clinical trials and critical large-scale testing.

I wonder who among us would brave Russia’s vaccine which, according to news reports, was approved without thorough testing.

Vladimir Putin has already claimed victory in the global vaccine race and proudly said his daughter has already taken a dose of Sputnik V, named after the 1957 Soviet Union orbital satellite, the world’s first satellite.

All eyes are on Moscow to see how well Sputnik V will work. Let’s see in the coming months. In the meantime and until a vaccine that has gone through all the stages of clinical trials available, many of us are embracing our reality now.

CleanTech

Many businesses are adapting. When I visited the office of engineering and construction giant Megawide recently, I had to go through stringent health and sanitation procedures. Nobody is taking chances.

Davao-based businessman Antonio “Tony Boy” Floirendo, the banana magnate, hopes to provide a solution to companies’ sanitation needs by bringing in a full-body disinfection channel used at  Hong Kong’s airport.

The so-called CleanTech facility is a huge box-like chamber where people go through to get sanitized.

It starts with a temperature check, followed by photocatalysis and “nano needles” that kill viruses or bacteria. A mist of sanitising spray is then released to complete the disinfection.

According to statement from the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA): “Persons using the facility will have a temperature check before entering an enclosed channel for the 40-second disinfection and sanitizing procedures.

“The interior surface of the channel is equipped with antimicrobial coating which can remotely kill virus and bacteria on human bodies and clothing by using the technologies of photocatalyst and nano needles. Sanitizing spray is also applied for instant disinfection. The channel is kept under negative pressure to prevent cross-contamination between the outside and inside environment,” the HKIA statement said.

Floirendo’s group says industries and organizations that can benefit from this chamber include offices, hotels, casinos, commercial and government premises, transport hubs and airports.

The group plans to bring this technology to the country from a Hong Kong company. Floirendo, a known supporter of President Duterte, is also putting one such facility in Malacañang.

Conglomerates

Indeed, many in the private sector are doing what they can to live with the virus.

In a recent webinar with government officials and health experts, dubbed “Can the Philippines Dance with COVID-19?” Filinvest Development Corp. president and CEO Josephine Gotianun-Yap shared the importance of the role of the private sector to balance three things – the safety and livelihood of their corporate families; the physical and financial security of their customers and business partners; and the public health of the communities where they operate.

“For Filinvest, our program revolves around three things – the mitigation of infection risk by managing density, testing combined with contact tracing, and the strict hygiene and social distancing protocols in the workplace,” Gotianun-Yap said during the webinar.

Filinvest divided its workforce into two shifts, with each shift working three days a week with longer hours.

“This cut our density in half and provided a back-up workforce should there be a spread affecting one shift,” she said.

Filinvest also arranged for shuttle service for their employees to reduce the risk of infection from commuting.

Ayala

Ayala Corp. has also adapted a structured work-from-home arrangement to keep majority of its 56,000 employees safe, said its chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala in a recent online session with the Makati Business Club.

This is possible through a remote work setup with online tools and learning platforms provided by the conglomerate, Zobel said.

Vaccine

The private sector is doing what it can as it embraces the new environment brought about by COVID-19.

Hopefully, we will not have to live with the virus forever.

And when the vaccine comes, I hope the administration will provide this for free especially to the most vulnerable sectors.

I also hope it’s the kind of vaccine that has gone through all the necessary procedures and clinical trials.

The Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), the government’s trading arm, has been tasked to bring in P20 billion worth of vaccines to the country, its president and CEO Dave Almarinez shared with me.

“We stand ready to deliver the much needed vaccines in this great hour of need of our country today,” Almarinez said.

It’s a big responsibility for PITC and I hope all the bottlenecks and the red tape are eliminated.

I also hope the government will use the budget for this properly. It is a critical need and there is absolutely no room for corruption and inefficiency.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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