Redefining heroes

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

We just celebrated National Heroes Day. We also just officially entered the “ber” months and the beginning of what Filipinos normally call the “holiday season.” But it certainly does feels different this time around. Last year was rough because we were still in lockdown and unsure of what the future held. This year, on the other hand, it feels slightly even more despondent because it looks like things haven’t improved much in the span of the year. It makes being back where we started from all the more disheartening.

Our cases hit an all-time high the other day, with over 22,000 new cases in the country. That’s the highest it’s ever been since the start of the pandemic. The numbers are expected to increase due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. It looks like we’ll be hitting close to two million as predicted by the end of the month.

What does that mean? At this point, it means that we are still looking at very dangerous times ahead. This variant of COVID-19 is far easier to spread, more deadly, and our vaccinations are just not going as quickly as needed. For the foreseeable future, we’re going to be practicing social distancing, masking, and staying at home as much as possible. The faster we understand this, the better it will be for us all.

Celebrating Heroes’ Day couldn’t be more appropriate as we look to the heroes that are the frontlines of this battle that we are fighting every day. If anything, this global pandemic and the health crisis has made us redefine what it means to be a hero.

While we still celebrate heroes like soldiers and those who fought for our freedoms, we also shine the spotlight on the heroes that are currently keeping us safe against this insidious enemy. This includes doctors, nurses, and medical personnel. It also includes those administering the vaccine and volunteering at vaccination drives. These are the people that are literally at the frontlines of the battle so that we can stay safe while at home.

They aren’t the only ones. While doctors and nurses and caregivers are certainly heroes, this pandemic has made us realize that they aren’t the only heroes helping to keep our society up and running. Due to the current nature of the world, we are redefining what it means to be a hero, and we also recognize those that do their jobs to keep the wheels turning.

This means those who work in the grocery ensuring we get the food we need, those in the pharmacies, those delivering our goods, garbage men continue to make the rounds to pick up the trash, security guards open and close gates, and so many more. While we often take these jobs for granted, these men and women continue to risk their lives daily to keep us safe and to ensure we can survive the lockdowns. This makes them heroes.

If there’s something positive to emerge from the situation that we have found ourselves in this past year, it is that we need to broaden our definition of a hero. A hero is no longer just someone who keeps us safe during times of war or strife – a hero is someone who puts their lives on the line to help us live. We have our fair share of them these days.

Let’s remember to be kinder and more understanding to them as they continue to bravely navigate their jobs, with what’s likely less manpower, and amid the dangers of the pandemic.

At this point, it looks like we are in for more weeks, and possibly months, of this. Improvements in our numbers and containment aren’t what they should be and the Delta variant has already been classified as the predominant strain in the country. It’s spreading so fast and we are not effectively dealing with it.

Honestly, with the numbers being what they are, it’s difficult to accept that we are already about to change lockdown status. While two weeks may have made the tiniest little dent in the number of people outside and in contact with one another, it’s hardly enough to make as big of a difference as we need, and not enough to help alleviate the hospitals that are still filled to the brim.

On the flip side, the reason economic managers have recommended easing the blanket lockdown for more granular restrictions is that, realistically, we just can’t afford it anymore. There aren’t enough funds to sustain those in need who are prevented from working, and the amount of costs for every lockdown is just not sustainable.

So what’s the alternative? While nothing is sure yet, we’re looking at hard granular lockdowns on COVID outbreak areas – streets, condominiums, and subdivisions with increased cases will be under strict lockdown and residents will be unable to exit or enter. Currently, with the news that has been released – in this type of situation APOR (authorized persons) may leave for work, but might not be able to return while lockdown is still in effect.

Is this the best way forward? It’s impossible to say at this point, but one thing’s for sure it’s going to be a logistical nightmare. With various classifications of lockdowns happening simultaneously, more security personnel will need to be deployed for implementation and supervision, and more solutions will need to be utilized to help those who will be stuck at home.

We’re running out of options and we have to be more deliberate. Along with lockdowns, we need to up our game when it comes to contact tracing and testing. This is not new. It’s something we needed to do from the start of the pandemic. We must continue an aggressive vaccination rollout. The death toll is rising, and at this point, we need to be firing on all cylinders when it comes to doing what we can to protect ourselves and the communities where we live and work.

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