No time to let our guard down

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

Does it get tiresome thinking about COVID-19 day in and day out, week after week? Absolutely. But is there any other alternative? While we are all doing our best to move forward, get our work done, and find a way to survive, COVID remains ever-present and we must always remind ourselves to stay vigilant and keep safe at all times for ourselves and those around us.

Filipinos tend to have very short-term memories. Many are similar to the beloved cartoon character Dory in Finding Nemo. I believe a part of it is a survival mechanism as much as anything else. Our resiliency sometimes stems from the fact that we choose not to retain the bad memories or the hard times. And while that’s all well and good when it comes to choosing happiness in life, it does not bode well for the country in terms of sustainability or achieving long-term goals.

We see it in politics all the time. Sustainability is hardly in our political wheelhouse. Whenever one administration comes in, they choose to start their own programs instead of building on the ones that are already working and in motion. Instead of enhancing the good work of the administration that came before it, most incoming politicians seek to create something new so they have something unique they can put their names on. It’s neither wrong nor right, but it does make things short-term. And several short-term programs can’t answer long-term problems.

As for ordinary citizens, Filipinos tend to not remember the hard times or the bad things if at all possible. That helps them cope, but it also makes them easily fall victim to the same hardships time and time again. There have been so many instances of us going through a period of suffering and promising to not repeat it, only to have those difficult times pushed out of our minds when things are okay again. And sure enough, because we don’t actively remember them, they always eventually come around again.

This is a legitimate concern for COVID-19. Now that we find ourselves on a slippery slope in terms of spread and transmission, we have to be mindful and careful, and remember every day that we can have a bad outbreak at any time. We need to remain careful and follow safety protocols strictly.

I can’t help but think about this as we slowly transition back to life as it was pre-ECQ towards the end of March. More people went out, traffic was increasing a little again, and more and more businesses were slowly opening up. While that was great and wonderful for Filipino workers, it wasn’t long before cases began increasing exponentially and hospitals began filling up to overflowing. We were all rightfully scared back into our homes for another round of enhanced community quarantine.

It’s been over a month since that happened and the government has had the tricky job of finding a balance in opening the economy and allowing more businesses to operate, and being careful to avoid another massive outbreak – especially in NCR+ – where the bulk of the cases were being recorded. This task is doubly hard because new variants are here that are transmitted faster and are much more aggressive.

While they figure that out the rest of us need to remain vigilant. We can’t let up now just because some of us have been vaccinated or because we feel our numbers are starting to decrease a little bit. This isn’t a real indication that things are improving. In fact, for several days there have been disclaimers that not all labs have been able to submit their numbers in time for the official tally release. We need to make no mistake; we are still in the thick of it, and forgetting that could lead to a huge surge once again.

Especially since we’ve already detected a case of the India strain in the country. This needs to be watched and tracked very carefully. Now is not the time to be complacent. Our country can’t afford a merry-go-round of ECQs and our economy will never recover if we just keep going back and forth.

Vaccinations must continue aggressively in the months ahead. While several LGUs have had to halt programs because they ran out of doses, there is also news that several more shipments have arrived or are arriving. These need to be distributed immediately so that they can be given to the people. Now more than ever, we need to step it up and move fast.

As citizens, there are so many things that are out of our control these days. It can feel incredibly daunting thinking about all the ways we aren’t able to foresee or control the outcomes of our own lives. But instead of thinking about that, we should try to focus on the things we can control. Let’s be mindful and contribute actively to the country’s survival and recovery by staying home as much as possible, following safety protocols, wearing masks, keeping distant, and getting vaccinated as soon as possible. Don’t let your guard down for even a second and we may yet emerge from these challenges.

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