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Realities of ongoing war against virus

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - April 6, 2021 - 12:00am

As we wade through more stories of friends and family members who either contracted the virus or died of it, our exasperation grows. But first, allow me to extend my condolences to the thousands of families who have lost a loved one; and commiserate with the hundreds of thousands of families who are thrown at the edge of desperation trying to secure some form of medical treatment for a kin who has tested positive.

Another bleak news is the forecasted economic contraction for a possible fifth successive quarter resulting from this latest lockdown of Metro Manila and adjacent provinces. The chances of a recovery in the second quarter of the year looks equally dark given the rising number of infections undeterred by a weak pandemic control response.

We have let our guard down. We reopened the economy without the proper and effective safeguards. We deluded ourselves that the war was over after regulatory-approved vaccines found their way to our shore, even if they were for a very limited number of people only.

We sat on our asses doing nothing significant, thinking that with cases averaging a thousand or so for most days of November to January, there was nothing to worry about. In contrast, countries like Hong Kong or Australia were freaking out with single-digit infection reports.

What needs to be done

As infections continue to rise, let us take a hard look at what needs to be done to continue getting the economy back on track. We have fallen so steeply that it will take a year or more to regain our old footing and get back to stride.

While there continues to be considerable concern over the safety of vaccines, it does seem to be the best way moving forward. Vaccination will not do away with the new normal protocols while under a pandemic, but it supposedly will considerably weaken the virus to a point that contracting it would not require the hospital care that our current health system has limited capability to provide.

This will not only prevent the queues in hospitals that we read and hear about, but preserve the safety of our precious frontline health workers. The incident at the National Orthopedic Hospital, where over 110 of their staff were infected, is questionable at a time when the first round of vaccinations covering all health workers has supposedly been completed.

If some health workers choose not to get a jab, other precautions to keep them safe need to be adopted to enable them to continue serving the sick. Otherwise, they should stay away from the frontlines to avoid getting sick and prevent others from getting sick.

This holds true also for the working population. Again, while keeping faithful to the new normal health protocols, getting workers and other personnel who have to report to work protected by vaccines becomes imperative.

That said, the government must provide all support needed to increase the availability of more vaccines for the Philippines. All hospitals and health facilities must be able to provide vaccinations to anybody who wants one at the soonest possible time.

We have become better at managing infected individuals in isolation camps, especially those located in provinces where outdoor space enables patients to recuperate with the immeasurable benefits of fresh air, sunlight, and healthy foods.

Despite the unfortunate rampant news of deaths, our rates are far better than most countries if measured against the number of infections and total population. But it definitely can stand to improve more.

Stricter, harsher measures

In the meantime, while waiting for more vaccines to arrive, stricter adherence to health measures must be observed. Double masking in work places, especially hospitals, is necessary, with the emergence of new variants.

Solitary dining, whether indoor or outdoor, is now more than necessary, more so in company canteens where lunch meal times are often an opportunity to exchange gossip, banter, and socially interact face to face.

Social distancing in public transportation should be strictly observed. Diligent professional disinfection of public places and commuter vehicles must be employed. It sounds harsh, but if the local government cannot provide disinfection services for tricycles after a passenger disembarks, then the commuting public is better off walking.

Gym workouts, in-person meetings, concerts and shows with live audiences, and similar activities will have to continue to be put on hold until infection rates drop to nil. And even after, reopening must be done with utmost caution.

We must take these and other health safety rules seriously to bring down those five-digit daily infections to zero. We must all strive to win this war, and there should be no compromise. If there is one cost that government and employers must not scrimp on, it is on this.

Closures

Can we save the most vulnerable businesses? Unfortunately, the lockdowns have dragged on ineffectively for too long to save gyms, spas, many restaurants and bars, tourism and travel-related businesses, and similarly affected others.

With each of these business concerns, not only has money been irrevocably lost down the drain, but thousands of jobs on which families had been dependent on been severed. Government must come up with definitive measures to respond to such business closures and job losses.

As in a weapons war, loss of lives and livelihood is an unavoidable, but painful reality; you never know when that bullet will hit you. The key is to keep the damage from spreading to crippling proportions, which unfortunately, could happen to us in this fight against COVID-19 if we don’t act now, and act correctly.

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We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

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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