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Business

The end is near

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

It’s a giddy feeling, this realization that the pandemic is on its last breaths. Going to Spain a few weeks ago for personal reasons, travel restrictions were visibly relaxed compared to two years ago when the virus was searing across this European country.

During the early days of the Spanish lockdowns, the deluge of deaths and hospitalizations terrified citizens enough for them to stay home. Like in Manila during the first month of its enhanced community quarantines, streets were empty of bustle, and people’s lives were literally confined to the four corners of their homes.

Today, the popular plazas and tourist spots are as crowded as they were when I visited in 2019. The difference is that about one third of the crowd had face masks on. While wearing a face mask is not required when on the streets or in open places, it is a must if one enters hotels, restaurants or stores.

If one enters such establishments and forgets to put on a mask, his or her attention is immediately called not just by the security staff, but even  by other people, as it embarrassingly happened to me once!

Returning home, other than the tedious long two-hour processing time through immigration protocols, it was straight home – no need for several days of hotel quarantine anxiously waiting to be cleared of any signs of the COVID-19 infection.

The biggest surprise was pictures and videos of presidential candidate Leni Robredo’s rallies, where those who attended were packed closer than the new normal protocols allowed, and although wearing masks, were energetically chanting and singing and cheering.

I was fearful for this crowd, even if many were young and healthy, but a check on infection rates posted by the health department in succeeding days did not seem to reflect any uptick in COVID-19 cases. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.

Pandemic fatigue

It’s not entirely prudent to draw parallelisms from the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, which was declared over on the third year. The world then and today are immensely different, most glaring being the extent of global interconnectedness and the advances in health sciences. There are some insights, though, that we can extract.

On the third year of the Spanish Flu pandemic, people had gotten tired of the deaths and illness inflicted by a virulent H1N1 flu virus that they stopped giving it a big role in their everyday life. The third wintertime wave of infections in the northern hemisphere countries in 1919 was also less severe, as the virus was believed to have significantly weakened, causing fewer deaths and hospitalizations.

With COVID-19, the Omicron variant may be equated to a third wave, although subject to extensive debate because significantly fewer deaths and hospitalizations resulted because of vaccinations.

If there is one distinct learning that we can pass on to future generations about this pandemic, it is the role vaccines played, where deaths had been significantly minimized. COVID-19’s reported casualties has recently topped the six-millionth mark, quite a change from the conservatively estimated 50 million people dead from the Spanish Flu.

Still, on the third year of COVID-19, as with during the pandemic a century ago, people were battered by all the restrictions imposed by governments and health experts.

Historians surmise that people who were suffering from pandemic fatigue in 1919 found a new reason to shed off virus fears: the end of World War I. Dare we say that the spontaneous energy we saw in Leni’s rallies are to a certain extent a response to pandemic fatigue? But that’s another column.

Many health experts warn that people today should exert extra effort to still be mindful of the presence of the coronavirus and its potential to mutate into something more threatening than Omicron that can evade vaccine protection.

This warning, though, is likely not being heeded now. Vaccines have certainly played a big part in this attitude change. Let’s put our heartiest voice together and sing loudly: “And now, the end is near ….”

Ban engine idling

Even with the reduction in pump prices early this week, gasoline and diesel for transportation are still prohibitively expensive, and would likely remain at high levels for some time. The government must do more to encourage fuel conservation, especially with public and private vehicles.

One of our readers, Richard Foster, points to the practice of engine idling as a practice that government must decisively put an end to. Let’s be inspired by what he started and his perseverance to see his advocacy work. Please read on.

“I should like to pick up on the point you made that there needs to an energy conservation campaign launched.

“For a couple of years, I have been advocating for a ban on engine idling here in Cebu City. My advocacy has met with some success insofar as the Cebu Business Park (CBP) now has a strict no idling policy in place here on the Ayala-run estate.

“The challenge for the CBP is the implementation of the prohibition. I should like to forward to you a couple of emails I sent to the CBP management … just to give you an idea as to how challenging it really is to have drivers change their habits.

“If you happen to be planning to write another column on energy and the need to conserve it, would you please raise awareness on the harm it causes to the environment (air pollution and climate change), and the cost to the consumer?”

Let’s support this initiative to ban engine idling.

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at [email protected]. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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