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Grappling with COVID, one year on

"It is probably safe to say we will make it eventually; the question is how many of us will still be around when we finally do?"

Grappling is a good word to describe how we have been responding to everything related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have grappled in balancing the need to curb new COVID cases with the need to maintain economic activity to allow millions to keep their jobs. As a result, restrictions have been loosened so that the NCR-Plus bubble is back to a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine—even as the two-week ECQ has not yet demonstrated its effects in terms of a sustained downward trend in the number of new cases.

We have grappled with testing, more than a year into the crisis, and many Filipinos are not able to get themselves tested if they wanted to; the tests are inaccessible and unaffordable.

The same has been true for contact tracing. Forms filled out at the entrances of drug stores or supermarkets hardly give us any comfort that we would get sufficient notice once a patient turns out to have been around the same place at the same time as we were. It remains up to us to look out for symptoms or isolate ourselves if we hear that we may have been in contact with somebody who has tested positive.

If we do not hear anything, then we go about our ways.

We witness firsthand how our leaders and decision makers grapple with the enormity of this crisis. The problem remains daunting even as we have numerous czars and dozens of bureaucrats in task forces.

Hospitals are full and patients are waiting outside for the chance to be taken in before their condition takes a turn for the worse. Tragically, many have died while waiting, their loved ones grieving and raging at the injustice of it all.

Meanwhile, our President says he has kept himself away on purpose—for what discernible, sane reason, we cannot imagine.

These days, we see more examples of grappling as we struggle during this protracted crisis. While some local government units have distributed assistance to their people, the manner of distribution has been uneven. Some have been efficient, while others subjected their people to lining up for hours under the summer sun, not to mention risking infection through exposure to large crowds.

Even the administration of vaccines, delayed and inadequate in number as they are, have been a source of difficulty. Some areas have shown remarkable efficiency, but others have not. It does not help that the trial and error is occurring during the turn of the most vulnerable—senior citizens and those with co-morbidities. It is heartbreaking to see them waiting for their turn for hours.

Of course, nobody has had time to prepare for this with all the other problems we are dealing with. Those frontliners are doing their best under the circumstances. But the sight of the chaos, the look of desperation, and the horror stories of ineptitude could be avoided by putting more thought into the factors causing bottlenecks. There is no tough talk necessary to make this just a bit more bearable for long-suffering Filipinos—just good planning, coordination, and collaboration instead of spite and competition.

At this point it is anybody’s guess how soon—or not soon—we can go back to a semblance of normalcy. It is probably safe to say we will make it eventually; the question is how many of us will still be around when we finally do?

Topics: Grappling , COVID-19 pandemic , NCR-Plus bubble , Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine , MECQ
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