Dr. Tony Leachon, IATF ex-consultant, hit the nail on its head when he articulated the state of the Filipino nation in two words: “Quarantine fatigue.” He added, “Information fatigue.” (If I may contribute another two, suspended animation.)
Exactly 139 days after March 15, when “lockdown” entered the national conversation with no one smart enough to foresee a prolonged quarantine, medical frontliners are now feeling the brunt. Fatigued, exhausted, tired, as in body-and-soul tired, ready to give up, surrender, lie down and get out, forget the world, forget your name.
Ospital ng Maynila is typical. Mayor Yorme locked down the hospital because there were just too many infected health workers. Other hospitals in the NCR were more vocal about hitting the danger zone, but if their bed capacities were 100 percent filled up, could it be a walk in the park for their doctors and nurses, technicians, lab assistants, janitors, sanitation aides, etc.?
We have been thanking our frontliners, even if the majority of us cannot pretend to be familiar with the hardships they go through every single blessed hour of every day. Their protective equipment are in short supply. Nurses demand higher pay, with justification. Their N95 masks cause skin problems. (I tried to keep a straight face wearing my lightweight mask for 20 minutes; it was not a pleasing experiment.) When doctors have the time to talk about their duties, they usually refer to an eight-hour shift. What happened to the suggestion put forth by experts from China to limit one shift to three hours? Try wearing a PPE suit for eight hours straight.
A number of our medical heroes have fallen. Their colleagues soldier bravely on. Depending on their hospital’s policy, they are allowed time – two days, one week – to take a break and go home-sweet-home, their joy tainted by safety protocols that demand isolation, i.e., no contact with the family. Stay in one room, eat alone – what if the doctor or nurse belongs to a big family and there’s no space in the house for a one-room lockdown?
With 13 million breathing, talking, walking residents, Metro Manila could hardly be expected to escape its fate as an attractive host for COVID-19. How to exhaust the virus before it exhausts us?