First wave goodbye, second wave hello?

Published March 14, 2021, 12:36 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng


Philip Cu Unjieng

Are we in the midst of a COVID-second wave? What constitutes it being called as such; and will we even acknowledge it is as such, when facing the beleagured state of our national economy? Given the facts that it’s only by opening up and gradually lifting quarantine measures that a burgeoning demand for goods and services, plus the sought-for economic upswing, can be created – how do we address the medical data? As the Philippines-bound COVID-vaccines trickle in, these are some of the pertinent questions we face as we dubiously mark (not celebrate), one year of living with COVID.

Hard to believe, but it’s really been a year; March 16 of 2020 marking the day we went under ECQ lockdown, and our collective lives were turned upside-down. Since that fateful day, the months have ticked by with regularity, seemingly oblivious to the changes we had to absorb in our everyday life. Is it really now our second nature to put on a mask and shield when leaving the house? I still keep forgetting I brought a shield with me when I’m out. To be continuously making use of those alcohol dispensers as we enter offices, malls, supermarkets, and restaurants – and turn our hands into dry husks. I know of several friends and acquaintances who to this day, rarely venture out of the cocoon-like safety of their homes, and dread this surge of new cases.

Burning masks in Idaho USA. (AFP)

If you want to talk about COVID-fatigue; spare a thought for, and let’s be thankful we haven’t gone the route of, what’s happening in particular states in the US of A. Last week, in Idaho, the People’s Rights Network, a far-right catch-all group, organized a mask-burning protest rally. This was on the steps of the Boise, Idaho state capitol, and extended to several other small towns of this predominantly rural state. It was parents encouraging their children to throw handfuls of masks into a fire.

And honestly, that just shows me how politicized the safety protocols of wearing masks still is in America. Instead of burning effigies of the COVID-virus or even donating the masks to hospitals and medical centers, they’ll burn the masks and believe some sweeping statement about their inalienable rights has been made. And the irony is that Idaho leads the Pacific Northwest in COVID cases and death count per 100,000 residents, and doesn’t even impose a statewide mask mandate to begin with.

If that sentiment was a strong one here in the Philippines, we’d be turning the masks into installation Art, to forms of apparel and 2021 Halloween costumes, or using them on our pets, and as awnings for the household plants we’ve invested so much money on. Anything but just burning them! Those masks are just helpful items that shouldn’t take the place of what deserves our ire – the virus! To turn the masks into symbols of the repression of our personal freedom is just so lame.

Going back to the notion of a second wave, I researched and was surprised to discover that there is no formal, scientific definition. We can liken it to waves on the sea; as the number of infections goes up and then comes back down, that cycle is considered one “wave” of coronavirus.

Even medical specialists from the University of Warwick in the UK admit, “It’s not particularly scientific, how you define a wave can be arbitrary.” What is unanimous is that to say one wave has ended requires that the virus would have been brought under control, and cases fallen substantially. And for a second wave to start, we would need a sustained rise in infections.

So our government is within its rights to keep the term second wave out of the discussion. Call it a surge, a spike in COVID cases; but it would seem that all costs we’re trying to refrain from calling it a second wave. What is a fact is that since the first Friday of March, the number of daily reported new cases had consistently risen to above 3,000 cases – back in February, it was tracking at less than 1,500 new cases a day. This forced the localized lockdowns in Barangays here in the NCR, and unified curfews are back starting tomorrow night.

So what’s paramount is that everybody still take the safety and health protocols seriously. Damn quarantine fatigue – this is not the time to let our guard down. I find it crazy that after so many months, I still see so many wearing their masks below their chins, and their shields on their heads.

Social distancing is also something we’ve gotten lax about – believing that as long as masks and shields are in place, we’re fine. Looking at the queues for public transportation and entering malls, the wisdom of ‘six feet between people’ has been lost and forgotten.

If anything, Mall security should be told to once again be vigilant and enforce these precautionary safety measures. For other queues, it’s only hoped that traffic enforcers and LGU rep’s find a way to bring back proper social distancing.

There is so much at stake, and we can’t backslide merely on the promise of a vaccination program – which honestly, will take ages to implement at a level where it’ll be safe to go out without masks et al.

That much is obvious – look to the USA, where the vaccination program is in full swing, but protocols are still part of the scenario. We can do this, but we have to really do it the right way.