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INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

When I sit down and think that over a year and change has passed since the pandemic first broke out, it seems almost surreal. Like the past 15 months happened in a movie or in a book I was reading and not in real life. Unfortunately, it did happen in real life and is still happening. We remain in constant flux trying to anticipate what’s going to happen next, and hopefully, figuring out how to respond accordingly or even better mitigate.

One of the hardest parts about all of this is that it feels like we are constantly in some form of a transitional period. While isolation and fear are all very difficult parts as well, one of the biggest burdens the pandemic gave us was the uncertainty of the future. If we knew how long we would have to hold out or how long we needed to suffer the knowledge, ironically, it would have made the suffering more bearable somehow. Because at least we would have known there is an end in sight.

But being the way we have been – living day by day, case by case – is both terrifying and taxing. Back in December, when cases seemed to decrease and the hospitals were seeing some relief, we thought we had finally gotten some sort of hold on the pandemic. We knew we were far from beating it, but we thought we had, at the very least, found a way to live with it.

But then fast forward to February and new strains and new outbreaks, and we were right back where we started. We were worse even and back into quarantine we went. Now, our vaccines are rolling out more and more, and we’re holding our breath allowing ourselves to maybe hope for a bit that this will be the first step to some form of recovery. However, we can’t say because it’s far too early to tell.

We’re constantly transitioning from one phase to another, and sometimes back again and it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. At this point, we’ve gone from ECQ to MECQ, back to ECQ to GCQ more times than anyone can recall. It’s been exhausting to remember and then re-remember restrictions and rules depending on the quarantine status of not just the country, but also each city, too.

Honestly, it just seems as if every time we begin to get the handle on something, it quickly changes. But I guess that is the current reality we have to face. Things are changing fast day-to-day, and in between, the fear and death and uncertainty, we just have to find a way to keep up.

Having said that, here are some important things we should all be thinking about in the days and weeks ahead. First of all, more vaccines should be coming in and rolling out this month. Back when we were talking delays and shipment arrivals, June seemed to be the magic month where both government supplies and private sector supplies would be arriving. If this is the case, an aggressive rollout approach should be applied, and more and more people should be vaccinated.

This also means convincing more people to get it done. The compliance rate is very low for certain groups – like senior citizens. The reason why could be a mix of several factors – fear, accessibility, mobility. If we can address these issues, we may see an uptick in vaccine compliance, which would be good because the more people that get vaccinated the better for everyone.

Second, with the transition back into GCQ we should remember that just because we have been given the vaccine (both doses) doesn’t make us immune. Nor does it make it impossible for us to spread the virus to others. We’re already beginning to see people relaxing a bit and that shouldn’t be the case. Safety protocols should still be followed or we aren’t going to see the improvement we want to see.

Finally, another important transition for everyone to consider is that the election year is coming up and it’s going to be a big one. While there is still time to decide on who to support – and indeed people are still discussing nominations and who is planning on running – as early as now we have to commit to going out and voting.

This could potentially be the biggest vote of our lives. The past 15 months have shown us how important our elected officials are and we have to make sure we let our voices be heard in the upcoming elections.

If you haven’t registered yet – do it now. COMELEC will be launching a mobile voter registration app that aims to streamline voter registration to make it accessible to everyone with a smartphone and even offline. The app will roll out in chosen pilot areas in over 500 cities and municipalities in the country. Alongside this, there are other ways to register online as well.

Hopefully, this means more people will register and troop to the polls (however that may look) on May 9, 2022. This is a huge transition for the country and we can no longer afford to be complacent.

At this point, it doesn’t matter who you are voting for as long as you give yourself the right to vote. All votes matter and all voices should be heard. We’ve learned a lot this past year and this is something that is in our control. It is time we take concrete steps in making the changes we want to see.

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