"We must remain on guard."
The murky state of our politics notwithstanding, things appear to be looking up with regard to the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the Philippines logged, for the first time in what seems like a long time, a number of fresh cases below 1,000. Reproduction rates and positivity rates are nowhere near their alarming levels from as recent as two months ago.
The use of face shields, whose efficacy has long been debated, was made optional in many places. More places — hotels, restaurants, resorts — have opened up to accommodate the public and have dropped the stringent requirements they have had in previous months.
This week, too, trial face-to-face classes were conducted in several public schools across the country. Next week, select private schools will join the pilot run.
In Metro Manila, the vaccination drive has been encouraging. According to the Department of Health, some 91.1 percent of the target population in the National Capital Region has been fully vaccinated. If we are to believe the official figures, 100 percent of priority groups A1 (health workers) and A5 (18-59 year-olds belonging to the indigent or poor sector) have been inoculated, along with 90.3 percent of A2 (senior citizens), 92.24 percent for A3 (those with co-morbidities) and 88.6 percent of A4 (uniformed personnel and essential workers not able to work from home).
All these developments bring us a measure of relief and optimism —but they may also cause misplaced security, even complacency, that may bring us back face-to-face with danger if we are not careful.
As early as now, children who have yet to receive their anti-COVID doses have been seen frequenting malls and other places of recreation. Letting the unvaccinated and vulnerable segments of the population outside the safety of home, just because they have felt cooped up for many months, is no excuse for reckless behavior on the part of parents.
Most importantly, the encouraging DOH figures speak only for the capital region. Elsewhere across the country, vaccination rates as a percentage of the target population remain low—the number hovers between 10.12 percent in the Bangsamoro Autonous Region in Muslim Mindanao and 43.37 percent in Region IV-A. Full vaccination numbers in other regions fall anywhere between these two places. This is low and unsatisfactory by any language, and we hope the rates do pick up in the coming days.
With the holidays and the election campaign coming in the next few weeks, and with the much hoped-for economic recovery, we expect even greater mobility among Filipinos. It is always good to be optimistic and hopeful — unless these degenerate into irresponsibility and carelessness.
We cannot afford another surge of infections. It is wrong to believe that we are successfully kicking COVID-19. We are just learning to cope and live with it because it is not leaving anytime soon. We should remain on guard, still.