Praying more than ever this Holy Week

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

Our numbers are reaching an all-time high. Because we just went back to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) we won’t be seeing a decline for at least another two weeks which means the numbers will continue to rise. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Predictions that it will get up into the 12,000 aren’t just a scare tactic, they are an actual possibility. If these statistics don’t remind us how important safety protocols are, I don’t know what will.

Some people ask how did we get here? We were already starting to show signs of improvement in terms of COVID management. Our numbers weren’t great but we had shown that we could handle the cases without overwhelming our healthcare systems and we were keeping spread or R0 (R naught) manageable. But all that changed in the last several months.

Naturally, we needed to find ways to stimulate the economy. We can’t be faulted for trying to do that. People needed to work, businesses needed to earn and to do that some restrictions were loosened. And then, last December the news of the vaccine gave everyone a little sliver of hope coming into the holidays. We relied on our leaders to handle procurement efficiently and utilize the time they had before vaccine delivery to secure the proper facilities and avenues for vaccine rollout in the first quarter of 2021.

Simultaneously, we were constantly reminded to practice safety protocols. Wear masks properly, stay socially distanced, and be careful. This was especially important during the holidays. It was the only way we could celebrate safely and enter 2021 with some hope that things were going to be better.

For the most part of December and even January, it seemed like people had listened. Cases didn’t spike exponentially after December and as far as we knew the vaccine programs were on track and scheduled to start in February. Perhaps this feeling of confidence in a perceived “job well done” was what caused what happened next.

The virus mutated. New strains emerged – stronger and more contagious. While these were first seen in other countries, we weren’t as careful as we should have been about protecting our borders from infections getting through and soon these variants and mutations were present in the country. Eventually, we’d have our own mutation as well.

Simultaneously, pandemic fatigue hit. I wrote about it in previous pieces. Everyone experienced it in some way or another. Some people wanted to travel, tourist spots slowly opened up, and in general, it seemed that the population was trying to get back to their lives. With the thought of vaccinations coming in, people became complacent. A lot of people didn’t strictly follow protocols. Family gatherings were more common and people in the streets used masks as a chin strap or a knuckle guard instead of how they are supposed to be used.

On the flip side, the vaccine negotiations fell through. They didn’t arrive as expected. Excuse after excuse came tumbling out about how the program was going to be delayed. Roll out was continuously pushed back and when it finally happened it progressed so slowly. We weren’t making a dent at all. In fact, based on the speed at which vaccines were being jabbed it would take us over 30 years to achieve the 70 percent requirement for herd immunity.

It was a deadly combination that led to cases rises quickly, hospitals quickly getting overwhelmed, and all of us being rushed back into ECQ once again. That’s where we find ourselves now. Hunkered down at home and praying things get better. Many things contributed to this current situation and we’re only going to be able to move forward if all of those things are strictly addressed.

We need to strictly follow protocols. Those who can stay home and work from home should do exactly that. If that’s possible be strict about masks, hygiene, and safety at all times. Contact tracing must be strengthened on a national level, quarantine facilities bolstered, and a robust continuous vaccination program needs to happen. I don’t doubt that our government knows what needs to be done. It’s time we all get it done.

These are things we all need to pray for and reflect on this Holy Week. As we commemorate these religious holidays we need to pray for everyone as we are all in this together. So many are suffering and dying from this sickness and we need to acknowledge the toll it is taking on the country. I hope everyone has a blessed, safe, and healthy Holy Week (at home!). Let’s all pray for a better tomorrow for the Philippines.

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