Pandemic tail end lessons

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

There are stories that we must tell for our children and their children about this pandemic, especially now that global events shaped by the Russian invasion of Ukraine have overshadowed it in importance.

The third year of a pandemic is usually regarded as its tail end, although it is not necessarily associated with the virus’ total demise. Epidemiologists draw lessons from various past pandemics, and warn that this coronavirus may likely evolve into new strains that could cause pockets of infections or epidemics, or even another pandemic.

Still, the world will remember COVID-19 as a virus that has become the second most unsettling global disturbance next to the Spanish flu of 1918, bringing the world to a halt for a good number of months, and causing stunted economic growth in a good number of countries.

Some unassailable lessons emerge.

1. Masks, social distancing, and sanitizing work.

In many countries, the level of observance of these three simple measures correlate to the severity of outbreaks. Where people are more defiant about wearing masks, for example, risks of spreading infections can be higher. Masks will likely become a more acknowledged defense tool in keeping away not just the coronavirus, but even the simple flu.

If someone in the household starts sneezing, additional disinfection and isolation measures can help keep the virus contained. Mask wearing will become an acknowledged tool for more people in preventing infectious respiratory droplets from spreading.

Even when this pandemic is declared over, don’t throw away those masks. Rather, always keep some handy in the house for the time when a family member starts feeling under the weather and looks headed for some sneezing bouts.

2. Vaccines provide protection from being severely ill.

The speedy formulation, manufacture, and distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus have become a potent tool for mankind to survive the worst of the pandemic. Unlike during the Spanish flu, we did not need to wait for 70 to 80 percent of the population to get infected and thereby generate herd immunity. Vaccines this time did the job.

For many healthy people who received proper vaccination, getting sick of COVID-19’s virulent Omicron strain during the surge early this year often required only home care in isolation, needing simple treatments of analgesics and cold tablets to counter headaches, fever, sneezing, and coughs.

Research breakthroughs on mRNA have allowed the development of a vaccine that does not introduce a weakened virus into our bodies to trigger an immune response. Instead, the mRNA vaccine teaches our body to produce a protein to fight a virus.

Depending on more extensive studies in the next years, we will know to what extent mRNA vaccines can be safely used to coax our bodies to produce a unique protein spike that can counter other illnesses, such as malaria or dengue or HIV, that have long eluded cure.

3. Taking advantage of technological advances in healthcare.

Telehealth consultations and treatment should become a pillar of government health interventions. In the Philippines where the state talks big about delivering universal health care to every citizen, the challenge of caring for people who live in barrios outside city or municipal boundaries could be less burdensome.

The months under lockdowns have nudged public and private healthcare professionals to open communication lines with patients using telecommunications, especially in areas where internet services are available and reliable.

Some cases cannot replace actual person-to-person interaction between a sick patient and the doctor, but many can be conducted remotely through trained healthcare assistants. Health gadgets for home use have also become more reliable, simple to use, and inexpensive, and have improved the delivery of care through telehealth consultations.

4. Good health depends on a healthy lifestyle.

COVID-19 has likewise exposed the vulnerability of people who are compromised by health ailments such as diabetes, high blood, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), and heart problems or disorders in the vascular system.

Most of these are now considered by today’s medical world as lifestyle ailments or afflictions caused by excesses in food intake, deprived sleep, and lack of exercise, stress from work, and societal problems, or the use of abusive substances.

Many of those who contracted the coronavirus and died resulted from complications. While there are now fewer people who are admitted to COVID-19 intensive care units because of widespread vaccinations, survivors who went through long recovery were usually those with poor health conditions before hospitalization.

Prevention, indeed, is a gem that our healthcare system must give more importance. Promoting balanced diets that are fundamentally derived from fresh produce, eliminating excesses in the intake of processed foods and drinks, and establishing an environment that encourages people to exercise are key messages.

Not only will this promote a healthier nation, but it will also maximize state resources for other areas of healthcare delivery. Maternal clinics, accident triage, improved hospital facilities, and better salaries for doctors and nurses are just a few areas that stand to benefit.

Other takeaways

There are more takeaways from the last two and a half years. Hybrid work and telecommuting have proven to be workable in a growing number of jobs, which bodes well for people who need more time to spend with their family. Buying groceries online is a great time and energy saver. Somehow, it has also dampened spending on frivolous things, those you don’t really need.

Best, though, was realizing the beauty and preciousness of day-to-day living, and thanking God for allowing us to survive.

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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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