THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
Last week, we overheard some broadcast journalists commenting in celebratory tone on the country’s major gains in our efforts to combat the COVID-19 virus.
We understand the upbeat mood which seemed to have affected the public at a rate faster than the deadly virus. After all, the National Capital Region and many other regions in the country were placed at lower restriction levels last year. “Alert Level 2” coupled with reports of declining infection rates made many of us entertain the thought that “the pandemic may be over.”
The fact is the pandemic is not over.
Many countries are finding that out the hard way.
Just as we went to “Alert Level 2” and heard prognoses from experts regarding the possibility of moving to “Alert Level 1” by Christmas, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Europe has once again become the “epicenter” of the COVID-19 pandemic. The international body warned that the continent could see about a half-a-million more people dying from the virus by February of next year.
European authorities admit that their countrymen had let their guards down.
The head of WHO in the European region cited the “relaxation” of public health protocol for the renewed surge in COVID-19 infections in that part of the world. The increase in infections was a whopping 55 percent, bringing the total number of deaths in the 53 countries comprising that region to 1.4 million.
This unfortunate development across Europe prompted the deputy medical director of England to say that “too many people believed that the pandemic was over. Thursday of last week, the United Kingdom reported nearly 49,000 new cases of COVID-19 infections, with close to 200 people dying from the deadly virus in a single day.
The staggering figures also led another WHO official to say that this development “is a warning shot for the world.”
We hope that this “warning shot” has been heard by our countrymen.
Once again, we say that we cannot let our guards down.
We must protect the gains that we have already marked in our fight against the pandemic.
We cannot squander these gains by being reckless and abandoning the basic health safety protocols which had protected many of us and spared us from severe infections and death since the pandemic hit the world in late 2019.
We do not wish to be misunderstood by our readers. For the record, we share the momentary joy that many families felt as they tagged their young children along to the malls last weekend. We were told that malls were nearly full and that there were youngsters enjoying the “freedom” offered by “Alert Level 2.”
We are happy for the business establishments which felt a relief from the doldrums that hounded their sector since people stayed at home following quarantine restrictions at the onset of the pandemic. We hope that business will now remain brisk and that these establishments may soon recover lost ground and lost revenues.
We also hope that this time of enjoying our regained “freedom” would not be momentary.
It would be unfortunate if the relaxation of restrictions would result in a new wave of infections and return all of us to lockdowns after the holiday season.
Mental health experts advise us that we must recognize our subconscious longing to return to “the way things used to be.” This is dangerous. In our attempt to fill that longing, the relaxation of the restrictions could find us attempting to return to the social and business activities we had been doing when the virus was not yet around.
The alternative to this “longing” is developing what a doctor-psychologist at New York-Presbyterian calls a “coping mindset.” He advises us to look at life as a “narrative” and the present situation as another chapter in this long-running saga.
The technique is to envision the “next chapter” as something new and different from the past ones. The longing for a return to previous chapters could prove unproductive and even detrimental.
We are glad that the shops and restaurants are open, as well as some of the leisure facilities we used to frequent in the past.
We are advised to make sure our expectations are right: We are not going back to the way things used to be. The virus is still around and will be there for some time. We just have to make the adjustments.
Europe is going through a possible new wave of infections. That is a warning shot to the world. Let us heed it and make sure we do not lose what we have already gained.
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