Bound for more surges

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

We may be entering the most dangerous phase of the pandemic yet. On Saturday, Cebu City registered the second-highest daily number of COVID-19 cases at 308 since the pandemic started in March last year. Cebu Province also registered a record high 207 new cases that day. NCR is also experiencing an increase in daily cases.

Although there is no official confirmation, many attribute this recent surge around the country to the Delta variant. Be assured, though, that we have the means at our personal disposal to deal with the Delta variant. Wear a mask. Stay at least six feet away from people outside your household. Avoid crowds and poorly-ventilated spaces. Wash your hands often. And get vaccinated.

One good thing is that there are now more people who are willing to be vaccinated. Vaccine supply is still sputtering, though. It comes in a short burst of supply arrivals for a week, and then nothing. The government says that about 28 million doses have already arrived in the country. It has assured a steady supply of 164 million doses in the next six months. The goal is that we will have a better Christmas this year compared to last year. We hope so.

Really, vaccines are our only way out of this crisis. Considering our economic situation, as well as the inefficiencies in the implementation of pandemic protocols and the inherent deficiencies in our healthcare system, all other solutions are unsustainable.

Most people will always crave for the outdoors. Wage earners still need to go to work, and that entails taking our cramped public transportation. And if people can get away with removing their face masks without getting reprimanded, many of them will pull it down below their chin. Friends and families will always gather together to celebrate special occasions.

That is to say, it will take a really long time before the “new normal” we’ve been talking about could take root in our culture. In the meantime, there will be more surges because of the new variants. Hospitals will get filled to capacity again with COVID-19 patients, only this time, 99% of them are unvaccinated.

We may be appalled by the sight of large crowds in an open-air park or public market. We have a reason to be alarmed at such a sight. It signals a laxity in the minds of the public in complying with preventive health protocols.

But many of events where the spread of infection usually occur are hidden from public view. They occur in the workplace, where co-workers talk loudly close to each other during lunch time at the cafeteria. They occur in confined or indoor spaces; in restaurants, bars, salons, gyms, and massage shops where people of middle-income pockets usually hang out; in family parties where everyone is loud.

You tell ordinary Filipinos to limit their movements for as long as necessary. Politicians with their entourage, meanwhile, roam around the country in preparation for the 2022 elections. Then you’ll have a bad case of dissonance where the government’s directives and the behavior of its political elites do not align.

The Philippines is not Vietnam, Taiwan, or Singapore. We are still a country dominated by feudatories and guileful lords, high and small, with little or no accountability to the law and to the people. That is the reason why we can’t even pay our nurses in public hospitals on time, we can’t do comprehensive contact tracing, and we can’t do mass testing.

Surges are bound to happen until we reach herd immunity through vaccination.

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