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Business

Don’t succumb to fatigue

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

As we come to the one-year mark of the first lockdown in Manila this week, we have to remind ourselves to remain even more vigilant than ever. While one of the longest lockdowns around the globe can naturally be exhausting, it’s even more important now that we stay careful because with the vaccination drive finally underway. We are at last taking some steps towards a better and brighter future.

Unfortunately, this part, the part when you can somewhat see the finish line is usually where the proverbial athlete gets tired and gets complacent. That’s where the phrase “trip at the finish” line comes from. When you feel you have the security of the win, you become overconfident and have victory snatched from you. Let’s not let that happen to us.

While we are still miles away from the proverbial “finish line,” the beginning of vaccinations in the country is, unfortunately, making some people believe that the return to normalcy is here. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We have barely just begun the process and even when we are thick in the middle of it in the next six months, we’re still going to need to wear masks and social distance.

The vaccines can help prevent serious cases of COVID, including death and hospitalization. But it’s not a cure and spreading the disease will still be a problem. People will still need to observe, and carefully at that, minimum safety protocols. It’s when these are discarded that cases are going to start rising again.

We are already beginning to see a surge. These past few days we’ve breached the 3,000 cases a day mark again. This is sad to see as we had already begun to observe a lowering of minimum cases in the previous months. This means more people getting sick and potentially passing it on to others, and more people going to the hospital. PGH has already said that they have once again had more than 100 admittances the other day – something they have been able to avoid for a while.

Some people can say that this is because of the presence of new variants in the country. That is certainly a factor. There has been some evidence that the new variants spread faster. The fact that the new variants are already in the country is concerning enough, and perhaps we are already seeing the effects of the increased spread. However, this isn’t the only reason we are seeing more cases.

We’ve heard about COVID fatigue a lot and the problem is real. Some people may brush it aside, but the fact remains that because we have had to deal with COVID for the past year, people are getting tired. Many who have managed to avoid getting sick are being emboldened to go out more and do more. We are seeing more non-essential social gatherings, large groups with no masks or distancing, and increased travel. These are all contributing factors to our current situation.

While it’s completely understandable that people need to be able to work and live, and that our tourism and food and beverage industries do need the help and uptick in business, we still have to remain careful and vigilant or it will have all been for nothing. If cases continue to go back up again, the government may once again impose ECQ and we will be back to square one.

A lot of time spent at home and battling COVID can be exhausting for everyone, but we can’t stop simply because we are still in the thick of it. A vaccine isn’t a cure and there has been no miracle breakthrough that has made the illness disappear. We have to remain cautious – wear masks, wash our hands, and maintain social distance from others. This doesn’t mean that we can’t support local businesses or even see the people we love (from a distance, in a mask). It just means that we can’t be careless when doing so.

We have come so far since last March and the vaccines are finally in the country. Let’s not trip at the finish line. We have to keep doing our part.

***

March is the annual celebration of women and this week marked International Women’s Day 2021. With the pandemic still engulfing the planet, I think it’s important to note that countries that have shown the best response to the health crisis – New Zealand, Denmark, Taiwan, and others have one thing in common – women leaders. This makes the 2021 IWD theme of “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in the COVID-19 World” even more poignant.

Here in the Philippines, Vice President Leni Robredo encouraged women to answer the call to leadership and said that despite the increase in the number of women in higher office, there still needs to be more to address the gender gap and “truly create a more inclusive holistic climate of change.” Even President Duterte called for support for women to realize their true potential.

It’s an inspiring message and appropriate for the times. Today women are holding important positions as heads of companies, as frontliners, scientists, teachers, engineers, mothers. No matter what their chosen path, their contributions to society are still invaluable. Hopefully celebrating women’s month reminds us that we need to support women and push for equal and fair representation in all aspects of life. We find ourselves in a situation, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and hopefully, this allows us to create a more inclusive future.

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