With all the news, good & bad, each one is still on his own

Published February 17, 2021, 12:46 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The good news is that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management  of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has allowed, starting Monday,  the raising of  the limits on  church attendance in General  Community Quarantine (GCQ) areas like Metro Manila from 30 to 50 percent,   and the  reopening on March 1 of movie houses  up to 50 percent of capacity.

It is a sign of the improving COVID-19 situation in the country. Staring last Tuesday, the IATF also allowed  more  foreigners to enter  the country, including foreigners with valid working visas, student visas,  special investors visas, and  special employment generation visas.

Around the world,  the number of new cases  decreased by 24 percent in the United States and Canada,  20 percent in Africa,  18 percent in Asia,   15 percent in Europe,   10  percent in Latin  America, and 2 percent in the Middle East.  The biggest falls were in Portugal, by 54 percent;  Israel, by 39 percent;   Spain, by 39 percent;   South Africa,  37 percent;  Colombia and Japan,  by 35 percent.

Not so good was the news this week that the Department of Health  had found 19 more cases of the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19, for a total of 44 now in the country.  The vaccines  now being administered in the US and Europe do not seem to be effective against the variant, so the vaccine companies are now rushing efforts for new ones good for all  the expected variants.

The supply of vaccines now being administered in the US and Europe — Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca — have  been largely cornered by the rich countries, so that the World Health Organization (WHO) has organized  the  COVAX Facility to secure some of these vaccines for distribution to the poorer nations of the world, including the Philippines.

It must be pointed out that all these vaccines have been granted only Emergency Use Authorization – the US Pfizer and  Moderna vaccine  by  the US Food and Drug Administration — because of the ongoing world emergency. Russia and China have approved  seven of their own  vaccine candidates.

It took up to five years for various vaccines now in common use to complete all the needed testing to ensure  they are effective and safe for  groups such as children and old people, such as those for chicken pox, measles, mumps, and polio. COVID-19 emerged only in December, 2019, so the present vaccines have not gone through the  usual five-year development and testing period.

It will take many months – and for many countries, years – before they can undertake any massive vaccination program. That we in the Philippines have been able to keep our  cases down is the result of the early government restrictions and the people’s  positive response  to the restrictions.

We expect to start receiving some US vaccines this  month but only a few hundreds of thousands of doses, when we need some 70 million  to achieve significant immunity for our 110-million population. This will take  many months,  years.

Ultimately, it will be up to the people  to face  this  problem, as we have faced it all  these many months – with each one protecting himself/herself with face  masks and face shields, proper distancing, and personal  hygiene.

As the national economy cautiously  proceeds to reopen, as we start going out of our homes to go to market, to malls, to schools, movie houses,  and churches, we must maintain  the care and caution we have developed over the months. For the COVID-19 virus is still around, ready to victimize the careless among us.