Think positively, but realistically too

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

When we went back into lockdown last March, it was a devastating blow to many who felt that we were inching towards learning how to live with COVID-19 while we waited for the arrival of the vaccines. In reality, it wasn’t a slap in the face so much as a wake-up call and one that we were in desperate need of considering how quickly our cases were rising and how fast the hospitals were filling up.

What caused the complacency earlier in the year? Even if we felt we weren’t experiencing big surges, without the vaccine being rolled out, there was no way we were going to “return to some semblance of normal.” Cases would still ultimately continue to increase and, looking back, it was only a matter of time before we ended back in some form of quarantine.

Today, vaccinations are ongoing, and while they are not going as rapidly as we would like, at least they are happening. I personally know quite a few people who have already been jabbed and that allows me to feel hopeful about the future. That, at the very least, people will be better protected as they attempt to open their businesses and get back to work.

But this optimism has to be tempered with realism. We can’t pretend that just because people are starting to get vaccinated that we are automatically cruising back to normal. The harsh reality is that we aren’t vaccinating as quickly as we should and we aren’t vaccinating nearly enough people to reach herd immunity any time soon. Unless we pick up the pace, we’re going to be staying indoors for the long haul.

Sadly that could potentially mean more iterations of lockdown and quarantine since it’s the first-line defense that we apply every time cases begin to increase exponentially. With not enough people being vaccinated and the presence of newer and more deadly strains, we haven’t really progressed as much as we may think and it would benefit us all to remember that.

This isn’t to say that those who have been vaccinated shouldn’t feel a pinch of relief. At least they have the added protection against severe symptoms and death. But being vaccinated still isn’t a 100 percent guarantee one will not catch COVID-19 or worse that they can’t pass it on to someone else.

The reality is that COVID-19 is still very much a big problem in the country and we need to be aware of that as we open up indoor dining and travel, and other social activities. Just because we have been jabbed doesn’t give us the all-clear to act as if we are completely immune to the virus or that we can’t potentially infect others.

As much as we want to move forward, we have to be cognizant of the risks still out there so we can be better prepared. Despite the vaccines being given regularly, we’re still at roughly over 7,000 cases daily and that’s no small number. That should give some insight that we aren’t really out of the woods yet.

However, along that same line of thinking, I have to admit that hope springs eternally. While we were all dismayed last March, most everyone found ways to cope with a new and extended ECQ. Jobs stayed as work-from-home whenever possible and people relied on deliveries and socially distant grocery shopping.

However, as depressing as it was back then, people were still positive that things would change for the better if we were just patient. And while the vaccine program has been slow-going in the beginning, it’s finally off the ground and moving. There are two good things to look forward to in the current vaccine rollout.

The first is that they have officially opened vaccinations for the A4 priority category last Monday. This means more economic frontliners will be vaccinated alongside ongoing senior citizens and A3 (persons with co-morbidities). This can only be a good thing. Again, the more people that are protected the better for everyone.

After the A4 category, the government can eventually open up category B, which includes teachers, social workers, and overseas Filipino workers. The rest of the population falls into category C. Once this opens up – likely later towards the end of July (or when the vaccines arrive) anyone who wants one can get their jab.

That plus the expected influx of private sector vaccines this June should hopefully help us push closer to a better and safe future for everyone. Until then, we still need to maintain our safety protocols. We need to minimize trips outside and stay home as often as possible.

While we can see some light peeking through the trees, we are far from out of the woods and we can’t afford to take steps back again. This time, we need to be cautiously optimistic and take it one step at a time – armed with our masks, alcohol, purifiers, and more. Only if we are willing to make the sacrifices today will we be able to reap the benefits tomorrow.

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