Pope sets example with face mask

Published September 13, 2020, 2:52 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Pope Francis  returned  last Wednesday to the  San  Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican where  he had held his first weekly public audience  after  these  had been shut  down  for nearly six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was wearing a face  mask  as he approached  the crowd  but  tried to keep his distance and urged the people to stay in their seats.  As he turned  to  go to the podium, an aide squirted some hand sanitizer on his hands.  It was the first time the Pope was seen in public wearing a face mask and using a hand sanitizer.

The Pope has certainly done his share in efforts to  keep  everyone  safe  from  the  virus  which has already infected 28,324,870 people and killed 913,913 around the world as of  September 11, according to statistics maintained  by  Worldometer, an international  team of developers and researchers.   Of the total  cases, 20,339,603  have recovered.

On the same day the Pope  made his first public appearance with a face mask to show his support  for global  efforts to stop  COVID-19, the World Health Organization  (WHO)  stressed  the  importance of safety  in the ongoing efforts  around the world to develop a vaccine against the virus.

It  reported  that  tests  on a  vaccine being developed  by AstraZeneca with the University of  Oxford in England  have  been  paused after one of the volunteers in Phase III tests had  unexpectedly  developed  transverse myelitis,  an inflammatory  syndrome  affecting  the  spinal cord  that is often sparked by viral infections.  An  independent  committee  was  named  to   determine  if the  illness was caused by  the vaccine being tested.

The AstraZeneca   vaccine  has been described by WHO as probably  the leading candidate among the many  vaccines now in their final Phase III  tests around the world. Questions have been raised  about other  vaccines  that are being pushed by  Russia  and  the United States  although they have not completed required  Phase III  tests.

WHO  expects  these  final tests  to be completed by the end of the year.   This will be followed  by  the mass production  and  distribution of  the vaccines  to countries  around the world.  This should be accomplished  by  around the middle of next year.

In  the  meantime, the world can only protect  itself  from COVID-19 by having individuals wearing face masks and, if possible, also face shields, by social distancing of one to two meters,   by avoiding touching possible infected areas like doorknobs  and armrests,  and  by constant washing of  hands.

Pope Francis  set an example for all to follow when he wore a face mask and used a hand sanitizer when he met his audience at the  San  Damaso  courtyard of the Apostolic  Palace in the Vatican. “Health, in addition to being  an  individual good, is also a public good,”  he said. “A healthy society is one that takes care of everyone’s health.”