Acting on our own initiatives to survive this pandemic

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - March 23, 2021 - 12:00am

The surge of fast-spreading strains of COVID-19, coupled with the relaxation of pandemic health protocols, has induced government to call for a two-week time out to curb the sudden spikes in infection cases. But will this work?

For sure, we can do nothing now to stop the mutation of the virus into a more transmissible, sometimes even more lethal strain. The world’s scientific community is working diligently to track and understand the characteristics of the new variants and to come up with crucial information necessary in coming up with new protocols – and perhaps new or improved vaccines.

The new variants have been keyed in as responsible for the latest wave of infections sweeping the world. The virus is mutating to be able to survive and evade eradication efforts. Understanding the characteristics of these new variants will be crucial in ensuring better health guidelines.

Epidemiologists and health professionals remind us that this virus, like many of similar virulence, is wily and smart. Every week, three or more strains are now being identified that so far have not shown any sign of weakening.

Keeping a tight rein on health protocols, though, is more important. A highly transmissible virus, for example, cannot be held at bay if commuters sit side by side inside a jeepney and separated only by a thin sheet of plastic, even if they are correctly wearing a facemask and face shield.

Keeping the economy churning

While some restrictions on public gatherings have once again been imposed, work has not been curtailed. Public transportation will continue to operate to allow workers to travel to and from work, although the government is strongly encouraging biking and walking as a commuting alternative.

It is understandable why work has not been stopped. First, the government is not willing and able to support another Bayanihan dole-out similar to what was given during the first three lockdown months last year. Second, calling for stay-at-home orders in Metro Manila again would be suicidal for the economy.

The Philippines is now the worst performing economy in the region despite having the longest and harshest quarantine restrictions. Even the prospect of economic recovery does not seem within arms length reach.

Protecting workers

Given these realities, the government must protect its workers who have little or no option but to use the public transport system. After all, only a handful of companies or employers can afford to bus their workers to and from work.

Regular disinfection of public transportation vehicles must be strictly enforced, as much as the correct physical distancing of passengers needs to be complied with. There is a cost to this, and such must be factored in to uphold commuter safety.

The economics of letting jeepneys and tricycles operate while continuing to comply with sanitation/disinfection and physical distancing rules must be thoroughly studied, and appropriate enforcement measures put in place.

Testing of drivers, as well as terminal personnel, must be mandatory and carried out regularly. Thankfully, the cost of having a test has become more affordable, with results more accurate and available in less than 24 hours.

Similarly, frequent disinfection of terminals and passenger walkways should be observed, just as continued reminders of what each one needs to do to keep safe, especially with the emergence of more contagious virus strains.

The workplace is another battleground where employers and employees alike must ensure no breakouts. The option to provide vaccines for all employees must be carefully weighed and prepared for in preparation for the time when the government allows general use.

This past 12 months has drilled us in effective measures like working from home, skeleton work shifts, Zoom meetings, and group chats to keep the work pace at optimum levels of efficiency.

Each one’s responsibility

Keeping hospitals from being swamped with COVID-19 patients requiring critical care can be avoided if each one of us, aside from strictly sticking to the pandemic health dictates, observes better health habits.

As mentioned in our last column, this calls for maintaining a balanced diet of good nutritious meals and avoiding junk and processed foods; getting enough sleep, at least seven hours; drinking plenty of water; exercising and getting a good amount of sun everyday; and lastly, keeping away from stress.

In cramped households where distancing is difficult, the new guidelines strongly recommend every person to wear masks. Intimate get-togethers among immediate family members are allowed, but not with friends or colleagues.

This virus is taking so much of the liberties we took for granted, but to take lightly its virulence is to be irresponsible and to put to risk other people, especially those with co-morbidities that categorize them as highly vulnerable and susceptible to intensive care.

Let us keep the circle of people we interact with small and familiar, and avoid meeting old friends we have not seen for months. There will be a time for that, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

Contact tracing is an efficient tool if it is done correctly and at the right time. At the current rate of infection, our government will find it difficult to run after people who may have been in contact with those infected and ask them to quarantine.

Where our government sorely lacks, let us put our own initiatives into action. The time to take our wellbeing into our own hands is now, and it is something that we can do. Stay safe, folks.

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Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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