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.