COVID-19 MGMT: ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
Just like that, gains made in making possible a steady downtrend of Covid-19 cases in the past two months have been reduced to nothing after another record high number of new cases in the first days of 2022.
After bringing down new Covid-19 cases to a few hundreds, with some local government units recording daily zero cases for consecutive weeks, the end of the holiday revelries, instead of ushering a resolve to work for the continuous downtrend in virus transmission, brought in fresh new cases in the thousands, more than 17,000 cases in one day just this Jan. 6, excluding earlier tallied daily new cases from Jan. 1.
As expected, the National Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has placed Baguio City and 12 other cities under alert level 3 from Jan. 9 to 15.
This recent development is beyond disappointing. It is unfortunate to see we are back to square one, despite two challenging years of living with the virus and having established control measures and systems that underwent adjustments and later proven effective, and especially since we now have ample supply of vaccines available for the eligible population. We can now also afford to administer booster shots and cover the younger population.
We are supposed to be on our way to our goal of achieving population protection. In Baguio, consecutive days of no new cases, empty isolation facilities, active inoculation drive, surpassed vaccination targets, and zero deaths for days have justified the move to safely open borders and accept leisure travelers.
For a short period, things were looking up for the economy and people were relieved by among others by the thought of simply being allowed to enter business establishments or gather for meetings, finally.
But we are back to alert level 3 – something we knew was coming, but if we already knew better than 2020 and 2021, we should have stopped it from happening.
It has to be noted the latest surge is not even driven, yet, by the latest Covid-19 Omicron variant, which entered the country last Dec. 1 with 46 cases officially detected so far.
We also acknowledge the situation is no different from what is experienced by other countries, which have had longer time of having zero cases but later hit with new cases with a vengeance, crashing what were thought to be sound control measures.
Where we have gone wrong should be obvious, and we got nothing else to blame but our weakness of letting our guards down when the situation is looking better or when restrictions are eased at the first sign of a case downtrend.
Rather than raising our defense further, we take things lightly, some with a defeatist attitude they will catch the virus if it is meant to be so why suffer the pains of restrictions from living like they used to do.
Even when we were recording low number cases, we cannot deny only few consistently follow protocols and practice personal protection. Majority remain unconcerned and only put up a conforming mode when authorities are looking. Only few would automatically isolate themselves at the first display of symptoms. Majority would still violate restrictions at the first chance they got, while authorities at times keep a pretense of checking, thinking being lenient for a moment would not hurt.
Many still do not get what public health crisis means and still refuse to get vaccinated.
Even when the phrase “minimum public health protocols” has become a staple in government and household discussions, not everybody really has made it a routine.
While we fully support the need to open the economy to allow recovery efforts, the balancing act still has a lot of room for improvement. Opening up borders when cases dip and closing when cases shot up, we believe, is just worsening the situation. It will eventually exhaust public health care systems, labor setup, and everything that depend on mobility.
We fear this becoming the cycle, a strategy that if not backed up with sustained and effective Covid-19 control and prevention measures will always lead us back to square one and painful setbacks.
In light of Omicron and other new variants that may still emerge, we should learn more than just living with the Covid-19.
Contrary to opinions, we believe it is not wrong to eye winning over the virus. We should not forget it started with an index case, and while it transferred to millions, our sense of self-preservation or saving what’s left of us should be enough reason for us to target every recovered Covid patient to be the virus’ last host.
Otherwise, every step we make that does not involve eliminating every case would always set us back further behind.