Lockdown blues

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

One step forward, two steps back. That saying wouldn’t have become as popular as it is if it wasn’t true. That’s sometimes just the way things go in life, and at the moment, it seems to be our pandemic story. Every time we seem to move forward just a little bit, something happens and we end up going backward. It’s where we find ourselves at the moment, in the face of the Delta variant.

We’re not the only ones. People all over the world are struggling to contain the new COVID-19 variant that moves faster and, by all accounts, is just as deadly if not more so. Countries have gone back into some form of quarantine, and even nations like China and the US are experiencing surges that they need to address. China has even decided to go back into the strictest lockdown in various cities and provinces due to the Delta outbreak.

So in that aspect, we aren’t alone in facing this new hurdle on the global pandemic road. It just seems like it’s more painful this time around because we were already finally starting to see some positive movement. Vaccines, while slow, were being administered and there seemed to be the smallest ray of hope.

Unfortunately, it was short-lived. The same is true in the US as well. They were much more aggressive in their vaccination drive and they got their vaccine numbers up quickly. Just a few months ago people were attending events and finding ways to be together again, but now, mask mandates are returning to several areas as cases spike once more.

So what are we supposed to do? Well, for us it’s back to lockdown. It’s the third iteration of enhanced community quarantine we’ve faced since the start of the pandemic over a year ago and while we are quite familiar with the concept, it gets harder and harder every time we do it. I think it’s because we have no guarantee that it will work. Sure, it’s a short-term band-aid that may stop the spread, but it’s not a long-term solution and we’ll eventually have to figure out a better way forward.

At this point, we need the playbook to change. We can’t keep weathering these kinds of ups and downs and just resort to old tactics to fix it. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the lockdown is essential, especially since our hospitals are filling up again at a rapid rate. I just wonder what else we can do outside of just quarantine to battle the surge.

Vaccination remains an important part of the battle, of course. Even abroad, statistics still show that places with major outbreaks are those with low vaccinations. People who have been hit hardest and landed in hospitals are a majority of unvaccinated people. The science is not lying. The vaccines do work, but we need them in much higher numbers to provide a blanket of protection.

At this point, we can’t afford to have people sitting on the fence. This is where we have been at for the past several months. Maybe not as much here in the Philippines as abroad but getting vaccinated has become a community duty at this point. While some people may still have reservations, it’s becoming glaringly obvious that if we don’t all do our part we’re never getting out of this cycle.

As for us here, it doesn’t seem like those opting not to get vaccinated is our problem. We are still struggling with a lack of vaccinations. At this point, I believe Filipinos want to be vaccinated, but our vaccine rollout has been so stop and go. While we are quite aggressive for a while, we always hit shortages and have to stop. We are barely at 10 percent of the population. If we don’t speed this up, we’ll never get to the point of herd immunity.

So for now, back to lockdown we go. While it’s understandable, it’s also unfortunate. Some people were slowly getting their businesses back on their feet somewhat and children were cautiously and slowly able to go outside even for brief glimpses of air and sunshine. But now, it’s back inside for us all.

The economy is going to take another big hit. While members of the business community and economic team support the move for quarantine, that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to cost billions. Losses we really cannot afford. We need to be sure that it isn’t in vain or else what was the point?

Now is the time to commit to make this pain worth it and use the time to map out a better way forward. Hopefully, the lessons learned during the lockdown last summer can be better applied this time around. We can no longer afford to just be reactive. We have to proactively strategize how to move forward.


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