We can expect return  to normal only in 2022

Published January 19, 2021, 12:01 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Incoming President of the United States Joseph Biden said last week that  among his first  actions when  he assumes office, he will  ask all  Americans to wear face masks for at least 100 days – about three months.  It is surprising for us in the Philippines that to this day, the wearing of  face masks is not generally done in the US,  when we in the Philippines have been doing it since March, 2020,  ten months ago.

COVID-19 has already killed  nearly   2 million people in the world, with  the US  leading all countries with over 389,000, followed by Brazil, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom (UK).  But  the  news is bad everywhere else —  with cases surging in Germany, in France, in Lebanon, Turkey, and many other countries around the world.

Vaccination has begun  in some countries led by the US and UK, which were the  first  to acquire  vaccines developed by Pfizer,   Moderna, and AstraZeneca.  But  they are far from achieving the desired “herd immunity” – that comes only  when  at least 70 percent of the population gets vaccine protection.

And even if counties like the US and UK  are able  to stop the virus  among their peoples, it continues to surge elsewhere  in the world. “If you can‘t put  it  out everywhere, you can’t put it out anywhere. You are always going to have travel seeding new outbreaks,” epidemiologist  Gregg Gonsalves of the Yale School of Public Health said.  “We have a great forest fire of a pandemic happening. But  if you have just a bucket  of water in a forest fire, then you aren’t doing well,” he added.

It  is  good  to hear that the US, the world’s worst hit country  in the pandemic, is now beginning widespread vaccination. And that as soon as President Biden assumes office  tomorrow, he will ask Americans to wear face masks.

But the danger will end only when the virus is stopped everywhere on the planet, for it has shown how easily it can spread  from  one individual to another  through   the air they   breathe.  And  in  this  world  of constantly  traveling individuals across national frontiers, the virus is bound to keep spreading.

Mass vaccinations have begun in some countries, while we in the Philippines have to wait some months before we can get our supply and even then, it will not be enough for our 110-million population.  The World Health Organization expects global herd immunity to come only in 2022.

Until then, all of us in will have to protect ourselves as best as can, mainly through the health protocols  — “Mask. Hugas. Iwas” – that should now be a normal part of our daily life.