All around the world, governments have been issuing warnings to their citizens to not let their guard down during the holiday season as the COVID-19 pandemic remains a significant threat to public health and safety. In October and November, Canada and the United States saw a spike in new COVID-19 cases as these countries celebrated Thanksgiving. Closer to home, a research group recently warned that the Philippines is seeing a surge in new cases as Filipinos begin to socially gather to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Particular areas of concern are Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Isabela, Leyte, Pangasinan, South Cotabato, and Negros Oriental.
Some nine months after the government imposed community quarantine on the country, a sense of pandemic fatigue is gripping the population. The World Health Organization defines pandemic fatigue as lack of motivation to follow health protocols which develops slowly over time as an expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis.
Pandemic fatigue and the cultural practice of Filipino families and barkadas to gather together to celebrate the Yuletide season seems like a recipe for disaster. However, this is the perfect opportunity to come together as one family and as one nation to prevent needless deaths, protect each other’s health, and bring down COVID-19 cases. Now, more than ever, we should continue following minimum health standards such as physical distancing, wearing face masks and face shields, frequent hand washing, and avoiding social gatherings and crowded and enclosed areas. In addition, the IATF has limited gatherings to not more than 10 people.
While Christmas looks very different this year, there is still good news coming in the form of life-saving and effective vaccines against the coronavirus finally being developed. According to Bloomberg, more than 1.1 million people have been vaccinated in the US, UK, China, and Russia, with the European Union expected to start vaccinations on December 27.
However, we do have to contend with vaccine inequality between developed and developing countries. According to the international NGO People’s Vaccine Alliance, rich countries have bought enough COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate their populations three times, while in 67 poor countries, only one in ten people can expect to receive a vaccine by the end of 2021. While the Philippines is not among those 67 countries, our own Department of Health said we may have to wait until March or April next year to begin vaccinations. In the meantime, while we wait for vaccines to become more widely available, we must remain vigilant, religiously follow health protocols, and take care of each other.
As we celebrate this Yuletide season, may we not forget to give thanks and rejoice in the saving grace of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Maligayang Pasko at Mapayapang Bagong Taon!