"COVID-19 is something we must live with."
Splashed all over the papers is the big debate on whether we should now revert to a stricter lockdown or not at least for the next two weeks due to what the government’s “science and medical expert panel” (IATF/NTF/DoH/DOST) and their advisers, in and out government, is predicting as a “killer” COVID-19 surge due to the Delta variant.
On top of the panel’s advice is a plethora of related suggestions’ from various sectors foremost being that of the UP based OCTA Research which claimed that thousands may be killed if we delay any minute longer.
OCTA Research founder Professor Ranjit Rye said: “…government should learn from the surge that happened in March and April that was driven by the Alpha and Beta variants..” in the process hyping that “..the Delta variant has become a game changer and a challenge that we need to contemplate hard intervention..”
The research group urged a two week lockdown by tomorrow at the latest as OCTA Senior Research Fellow Dr. Guido David casually predicted that “If the government delays its lockdown until the middle of August, daily average cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) will escalate from a low of 2000 cases to a high of 5000 cases.”
This hyperventilated assessment has prompted Big Business to shout “lockdown to save lives” albeit with a huge markdown – release more assistance funds as if we remain awash with cash and the ayuda will be more than enough to make up for all the lost time, resources and yes, the confidence and respect we have been slowly losing since Day One of this pandemic by resorting to such a draconian measure.
In fact, for the first time the DoH, the agency that is supposed to provide the science behind any government-mandated COVID-19 response measure, has said NO to this OCTA Research invite advising instead that there is as yet no need for such a drastic action. Of course, it is very possible that the DoH will cave in and evade taking any responsibility all over again by simply going with the flow.
That is why we ask: will the real science please stand up? It has been a year and a half since we had to live with this virus. Surely, we must have learned a lesson or two on how to deal with it in a manner which does not engender fear and endanger lives, property and the pursuit of happiness. I think we have gone from having zero knowledge of its provenance to how to deal with this pandemic to a healthy understanding of the whys, wherefores and how tos related to its impact on our lives.
For one, we know that like the seasonal flu, pneumonia and even Ebola and HIV we will just have to live with it.
That means we will have to develop the means and the skills on how to deal with it, surges and all. We also know that even as the infections go up and down every so often, the number of hospitalizations has been lower than predicted and the number of fatalities hovering at very, very low levels. In our case it has been ranging from 1 to 2 percent of cases which, if we go by the figures, is even less than those succumbing to the seasonal flu or even those from road accidents. Of course, as much as possible we should aim for “zero deaths.” But as one former health official advised, that will only happen if we are all already dead, noting that as long as we are living we will always have encounters with death. What we should do is mitigate it and in the case of COVID-19 by now we have a number of mitigating measures apart from a hard lockdown which has wrought havoc in our way of life.
Such guidance remains the same: wearing of face masks (plus face shields in enclosed places), washing of hands; practicing social distancing and now, with the vaccine, getting the jab Lockdowns should be the last, last resort when all else fails. If the jab is not yet available due to supply issues then we should try to enhance our immune systems by eating and sleeping properly, having a modicum of home care vitamins and other supplements, taking walks and getting sunned and other such immune enhancing measures including dishing out the real facts, informing and educating the public responsibly Then, we have such measures as enhancing our hospital care system with the right mix of health workers, medical and protective equipments, proper diagnostic efforts and, of course, real science behind each and every mandate. In other words, fact-based, educated — not politicized — advocacy science.
The ongoing ferocious debate in the United States itself highlights the need for an honest reckoning of the lessons learned a year and a half living into this pandemic. Once upon a coronavirus time, an article in the New York Post noted, Americans were told to just follow the science — that the science was true and the science was pure and that it was the science and only the science that would lead to freedom and safety and security and ultimately, a nation of normalcy once again. The question is: Which science?
This is where the real debate sets in as the once unquestioned diktat from the highest health and disease control institutes in the United States wobbled in their own assessments and guidance. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has flip flopped twice on the issue of mask mandates that the states have been left to their own devise what to impose in their respective jurisdictions. That issue has since included masks for children.
As the New York Post mockingly reported: “The American Academy of Pediatrics just said all children over the age of 2 years old should wear face masks in school this fall. Oh, and all school staffers, too, regardless of vaccination status. This is after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said just a few weeks ago that students who’ve been vaccinated don’t have to wear face masks in the classroom this year.”
That kind of flip flopping has affected the US vaccination roll out as a growing number of citizens are opting not to proceed with vaccination dampening President Biden’s earlier boast that America will reach herd immunity by this month. That seems to be a long shot given the growing hesitancy to the point that Biden himself is thinking of mandating vaccinations starting with federal employees which is being pushed back by certain sectors for various reasons such as religious beliefs or outright unbelief in the need and efficacy of vaccines. Up to now, a year and
a half in a pandemic induced ”äll-of-country-restriction zone” under various guises what the real science is remains unresolved. Perhaps never will. Which is putting our lives in a kind of limbo without any sense when we will ever get back to our lives.
Which is what the New York Post article correctly noted. “A year-plus into the coronavirus,” the article advised, “and look what America has become: a nation-in-waiting. A nation of citizens waiting for doctors and health professionals and medical advisers and physician-tied-wonks to give us permission to get back to life. And guess what: They all have their own opinions. They all have their differing advisements. They all come with their own core competencies against which they hold up the coronavirus for comparative safety analysis. Thing is, while they dicker, America waits. While they debate and discuss and differ in opinion, Americans suffer loss of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. This is why doctors aren’t in charge of making individual decisions“
Finally, it went for the jugular. “They base everything,” it emphasized “on the principle of “what if.” But life is filled with “what ifs” — what if there’s a car wreck, what if there’s a fire, what if there’s a company lay-off, what if there’s a death in the family, what if there’s a fill-in-the-blank that leads to a sudden and uncontrollable and life-changing incident. It’s called: Life.”
It is time to think and rethink the measures we are being asked to undertake in the name of our “survival and normalcy.” Not to question OCTA Research’s earnest effort to sound the alarm, but would it not be better if they come out with a more detailed explanation of the basis of their recommendation?
In and the experiences we have so far since the time we indulged their “lockdown” models down to the last detail. That would certainly boost public confidence in the science of their advisories.