October 3, 2023

Last May 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the end of the global health emergency (pandemic) status of the Covid 19 virus after almost three years from its original declaration (June 30, 2020). Although weeks before that date, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). Almost seven million people died due to the virus within that period, not to mention the unreported deaths.
The announcement does not mean the virus is no longer with us. It is still in the air and continues to be a deadly threat that every country must seriously contend with together with the other viruses and diseases that remain in the air for centuries now.
WHO stated the virus continues to evolve with variants constantly discovered. Due to each society’s vulnerabilities, protection, and age vulnerabilities, among others, countries must still observe WHO recommendations aside from their own.
WHO Secretary-General Tedros Ghebreyesus warned: “The worse thing any country could do now is to use this news as a lesson to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about.”
Just last week, the Department of Health through OIC Maria Rosario Vergeire issued a statement that the pandemic is not over. She maintained that “even though the WHO has already lifted the PHEIC status, they did not say that the pandemic is over.” She further echoed the words of Tedros that “we cannot be complacent at this point.
We must thus continue to observe and practice our health and safety protocols and follow health advisories, including government restrictions when the spread of this deadly virus has reached an alarming level. Each country must continue their disease monitoring and always have on hand resources necessary to fight Covid-19. The public should remain vigilant and continue using layers of protection – wearing of masks, isolating when sick, getting vaccinated and boosted. As noted by health authorities, the Philippines is experiencing a rise in Covid-19 cases, although this is still classified as “low risk” and within manageable level. The Inter-Agency Task Force is evaluating the country’s situation and shall soon recommend new guidelines or protocols for the pandemic.
I was stranded and quarantined in our city for about eight months from the time our country-imposed health protocols, including quarantines, checkpoints and curfew were implemented. My return flight to Geneva was cancelled five times. I was lucky that our dear friend Marita Manzanillo hosted me in their ancestral house and was cared for until dear friend Kit Arvisu was able to book me a flight to Zurich. However, daughter Chantal had to drive me back to Geneva. How those months passed by like I was living in a limbo waiting for the world to continue spinning on its orbit.
Due to restricted mobility and social distancing to prevent infection, we had all the time to ourselves during that pandemic episode in Baguio. Of course, our major connection to the world was WiFi assisted television, cellphone, social media, internet, zoom meetings, etc. Business were at a standstill and the world was waiting for the discovery of the vaccine that would save humanity from extinction.
Food delivered through motorcycles became brisk business because restaurants, hotels and eateries were either closed or sold only take-out foods. Online shopping became the effective substitute for “malling”. Barangay officials had their hands full issuing permits, monitoring and implementing health protocols, setting up checkpoints and distributing “ayuda” to the constituents, among many other things. The city market, supermarkets, and groceries were open but shoppers had to show permits from barangay, and must follow health protocols.
One must avoid getting infected with the virus as there was yet no vaccine to fight it. Hospitals were jampacked with patients. Some first responders, including doctors and nurses, fell victims of the virus. Only the adventurous would dare roam the deserted roads and public places and defy the health and safety protocols.
So, what did these all leave me?
I developed a daily routine that included physical exercises of brisk walking along the Manzanillo compound, together with friend Marita; machine-assisted exercises; calisthenics, including friendly games of mahjong with friends, to keep our mental health. Netflix substituted for movie houses, and on-line masses on youtube was my early morning devotion.
I did not realize that attending mass and hearing the daily Gospel for three consecutive years would give me good knowledge about the entire contents of the Holy Bible. It strengthened my spiritual fibre and made me confident to face adversities including the threats of the deadly Covid-19 virus. I felt in my heart that an effective vaccine would be discovered. And so, it is.