These critical last few days of the year

Published December 21, 2020, 11:43 AM

by Manila Bulletin

In these last few days of the year, our officials will be closely watching the figures of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country, to see the effects of the general easing of restrictions for the holiday season, particularly the gathering of people for the Simbang Gabi.

The officials know the figure is bound to go up, but it is hoped that it will not be so much that severe restrictions will have be imposed again. It all depends now on the people themselves, whether they follow the few basic rules of wearing face masks and face shields, proper distancing, and frequent washing of hands.

The COVID-19 virus is still with us. Some countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have begun administering vaccines which, in due time, will create a “herd immunity” that will stop further spread of the virus. But that will take time, months, as there are hundreds of millions of people that need to be vaccinated.

The earliest we will get our share of the vaccines is in May next year. That is five months from now and even then, the vaccines we expect to have by that time will be good for only 30 million people — out of our total 110 million population.

We simply have to rely on what we now have. Our people must know that their safety lies in their own hands. The only mass gatherings we are now having are the Simbang GabI and Church officials are doing their best to maintain proper distancing — one meter — in the churchyards.

But, as Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said after the first pre-dawn mass last Wednesday, “we can contol the peop;le in the church premises, but we do not have the authority to control people in the streets.”

There are three more pre-dawn masses of the nine-day Simbang Gabi left before Christmas Eve. The government has warned against other holiday gatherings, such as family reunions, small parties, people shopping in malls and supermarkets.

Our health officials will be closely watching the figures of COVID-19 infections and deaths in every one of these days, and in the rest of the year. If the figures start sweeping upwards, the officials will have to act and impose restrictions anew.

We hope it will not come to this. We have come a long way since March when Manila and the rest of Luzon were placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine. We have done much better than some other nations, like the US, India, Brazil, Russia, and France, the nations with the most COVID-19 infections today.

Our government has imposed restrictions but ultimately, it is the people following the restrictions that will keep infections down. We thus join in the appeal to everyone to follow the basic rules that will keep them safe and keep infections in the country down in these critical last few days of the year.