OF SUBSTANCE AND SPIRIT
By DIWA C. GUINIGUNDO
This Sunday is Resurrection Sunday. After betrayal by His disciples and dying on the cross, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Despite raising the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:21-43), the son of Nain’s widow (Luke 7:11-17), and Lazarus to life (John 11:1-44), Jesus was rejected as the Son of God and Messiah by Jewish leaders. The signs and wonders Jesus demonstrated were not enough. His own resurrection was dismissed as a hoax, as “fake news.” The Sanhedrin peddled the lie that the apostles stole His body (Matthew 28:11-15). But Scripture is clear that Jesus appeared 11 times and stayed on earth for 40 days until Pentecost.
Without the resurrection, all preachings about Jesus and His kingdom would have been in vain. Our faith would be rendered like other faiths whose founders remain deceased. The Lord’s resurrection confirms His supremacy against the grave and death. Death could not hold Him (1 Cor 15:55-57). His resurrection gives us living, blessed hope (1 Peter 1:3-4)!
Today, we also see a glimmer of hope in the fight against the coronavirus.
More and more N95 masks, PPEs, ventilators, and ICU beds have reinforced frontliners’ mostly improvised armor against our viral enemy. Test kits are increasingly more available. My classmate, Eki Gonzales of The Medical City suggests increased PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) processing capacity. By this time, we should have more of this to avoid a second viral wave. We welcome President Duterte’s extension of the enhanced community quarantine. This mitigates the challenge for now.
At last, public and private hospitals no longer turn away COVID-19 patients unless their maximum capacities have been reached. There is, however, the challenge of the dwindling number of doctors and nurses who can attend to COVID-19 patients. But there are talks of qualifying interns or even retired medical workers to man the fort.
The more we invest in our frontliners and in our healthcare infrastructure, the more we should see a greater trajectory in health gains. Things are moving. Additional health facilities are being installed in hospital wings and in unorthodox places like city halls, sports complexes, trade centers, and convention centers. With more ICU beds and appropriate medical staffing, testing, contact tracing, and isolation become more meaningful. Test results can be dealt with, and the outbreak curve flattened.
More and more jurisdictions have embraced travel restrictions and community quarantines. This also raises hope. It is impossible to talk of national safety from the deadly pathogen without a global solution.
Germany’s Angela Merkel asserted it would be irresponsible to relax some of the measures installed. France’s Eduoard Philippe stressed the importance of not ruining “the collective effort.” The world has become so small. Contagion is many times quicker. Japan declared an emergency health period as Prime Minister Abe announced a $518-billion economic stimulus package equivalent to some 10 percent of GDP. Singapore tightened its previous, relatively mild community restrictions.
There is hope when leaders of nations assume their roles seriously.
The New York Times reported on a study by Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark McClellan, Lauren Silvis, and Crystal Watson, experts in health, law, security, and medicine. There are four baseline guideposts of when it is safe to reopen a nation. A nation is ready when:
First: its hospitals are able to treat patients without assuming a crisis level of care. We should see this approximated as more public funding and donations flatten the incidence curve.
Second: it is promptly able to test everyone with symptoms. Mass testing does not have to cover all 108 million Filipinos.
Third: it can effectively monitor confirmed cases and contacts even through cellphone tracking. This is the only way to prevent another viral resurgence and another lockdown.
Fourth: it has a visible sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days – the period of time the virus manifests its full impact.
Of course, we have yet to hurdle these parameters.
Beyond this basic scenario, health experts also propose serological testing. In contrast to viral detection, this type of testing looks for antibodies that fight the infection. Armed with these test results, we can ascertain how many have been infected and the future dynamics of immunity.
According to Gregg Gonsalves, Yale professor of epidemiology and law: “…serological testing…preferentially allow(s) those who are antibody positive and no longer infectious to return to work first. (However) we are nowhere even near accomplishing any of these criteria. Opening up before then will be met with a resurgence of the virus.”
Hope is up as quick wins have been recorded. China reported its first day since January without mortality. Italy announced a lower death toll. New York state and city are at a turning point based on media accounts. Austria is planning to reopen. Denmark plans to reopen school for younger children who cannot do on-line learning.
The Philippine government has also gained some traction against the epidemic. This further raises our hopes.
The economic managers have rolled out public policies that prioritize fighting the unseen enemy. We all desire to see a bigger slice of the pie dedicated to health. By all means, the virus should be neutralized and truncated as a footnote in history.
According to Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, social protection of displaced workers will come in the form of a P200- billion program. This is to be distributed to targeted families in the form of cash and basic needs over the next two months pursuant to the Bayanihan Act. Secretary Dominguez assured that the government will “eventually put in place programs for affected businesses so the economy could bounce back as soon as we beat this lethal virus.”
Our economic managers understand that fighting the virus is not just a health move. It is a powerful economic investment in itself.
While Theodore Schulz coined the term “human capital,” it was Gary Becker, winner of the Nobel Prize in economic science in 1992, who popularized it. Arresting the pandemic is an investment in ourselves. In Becker’s words, this “pays the greatest dividend.”
“Jesus proved this was true by empowering the twelve apostles to do His Great Commission and turned the world upside down.”