One Year of Battling COVID-19

More than one year since we had our first lockdown, our country now transitions to vaccine inoculation, and given the new surge brought forth by the new variants, it is important more than ever to implement our vaccination at a more rapid phase.

Last Sunday, this was the focus of ONE News Townhall ‘Kumusta Na Ba Tayo?’ With Roby Alampay and Cheryl Cosim as the host, the discussion produced a lot of viable and amazing insights given the various personalities from the health and economic sector. Here are some of the highlights from each of the resource persons present in this town hall.

On vaccination and our mindsight moving forward

“It’s been a very long lent, one year of lent, and the lent continues, but the vaccines are on their way…so I am hopeful that by Christmas, things will feel different even without herd immunity only because the most vulnerable amongst us will already be protected. And the last thing, lent ends in Easter, so that’s what we are praying for now,” Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, OCTA research fellow, forwarded.

“I think it’s important that we all recognize our responsibility and our role in curbing the current surge. And more importantly, also, our role in influencing others whether that’s explicit or unaware that we’re influencing people around us – and that goes with both reducing transmission or reducing contact rates with others so that we don’t become agents or passports of the virus. But then also, in making sure that we only talk about verified information when we discuss vaccines with other people. If we’re not sure about certain things, then we probably shouldn’t be saying it out loud, and take time to verify it first,” Dr. Beverly Ho, director of DOH Health Protection Bureau, advocated.

“A lot of people were hesitant to get the first shot. I was the first one (to be vaccinated) so we can post it, and after we post it, everybody in the hospital decided to go and get it because I was willing to get it. The message there, we do it one day at a time, one person at a time, one conference at a time, one meeting at a time, and if we are able to do that, at no additional expense to the government, just making sure that even the lay (man) would get to understand what the benefit of immunization is. I always tell people that this jab, this shot, is not for me, it’s for you,” Dr. Benjamin Co, chief of UST Hospital Pediatric Infectious Diseases Section, narrated.

“Malaki ang hinihingi natin sa isa’t-isa na magtiyaga pa ng kaunti, magtiis pa ng kaunti, bunuin pa natin yung kailangan nating gawin para malampasan itong surge. Pero meron na tayong armas, andyan na yung bakuna. Siguro kaunting kapit na lang…hopefully, hindi lang new normal yung aabutin natin, better normal – kasi gusto nating natuto na tayo doon sa mga pinagdaanan natin,” Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, member of DOH-Technical Working Group, asserted.

On the economy and strategy moving forward

“The science is clear, and the strategies are clear, we just really have to come together, do what we did last year, and make it work. We just have to work together the way we pulled together last year,” Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force on COVID-19 and testing czar, said.

“It was truly a big war, but when I look back after one year, I only look back at the positive things. Friends and enemies worked together against a common enemy and we beat it, our first round, we were able to flatten the curve after August with strict implementation and increased testing…There are many good things. Trying to look at the good side, even if we have a surge now, that’s the nature of the virus, that’s the nature of illness, that’s the nature of disease, we have to keep fighting, we shouldn’t give up, and we should continue,” Dr. Ted Herbosa, medical adviser of NTF on COVID-19, forwarded.

“Conditional optimism, optimism that is conditional on having a plan and conditional on actually implementing that plan. If we don’t have a plan moving forward, that optimism will just get thrown out the window. So that’s where I am today, if you ask me what are the three top things that we must work on, what would be the key elements of that plan, first, we need an efficient vaccine roll-out; number two, we need to calibrate our lockdown policy; number three, no lockdown, whether it’s a scaled-up lockdown or a localized lockdown, will work without cash assistance,” Rep.  Stella Luz Quimbo, economist and representative of Marikina City 2nd District, argued.

“Ang balance dito, kailangan siguraduhin lang natin that number one, on the part of the traveler, he complies with the minimum health and safety protocol. On the part of the service provider, meaning the hotel, the transport companies, the tour operators, kailangang sumunod din sila sa mga guidelines na we have crafted for their operation. So, it has to be full cooperation between the traveler and the service providers. The travelers under the new normal would have to be patient, more understanding, and more cooperative because the systems and protocols under the current situation are obviously different from how they were before the pandemic,” Benito Bengzon, Jr., undersecretary for tourism development planning, noted.

And for what I shared during the town hall, “12 months, we’ve made mistakes, but we’ve learned a lot. It’s a process, we learn through our mistakes then we gain insights. The first 12 months was really trying to know how we can best balance lives and livelihoods, but it’s very difficult because the new normal actually does not make many businesses viable – that’s why you saw the economy take a real big hit in 2020. But coping with this crisis and seeing hope throughout, we are at this stage that we now have the nuclear warhead that we can eliminate this COVID-19 with, the vaccines. That’s why the private sector became more involved in bringing in the vaccines. Now, with the continuous arrival of the vaccines, what is key is a great execution on the vaccination rollout. With the private sector, the national government, and the LGUs working hard, together, we can execute better. We need to vaccinate as fast to beat the mutations. The private sector is active and is willing to cover the logistics and inoculation of its employees. In this way, the LGUs can focus more on their constituents while the national government can focus more on the other sectors that will be not covered. Saving lives and livelihoods, you have to save both to the best that you can, that’s the main idea of all these initiatives from the private sector. I’m optimistic that if we successfully roll out the vaccine and our citizens take it; this problem will start to be on our side then we’ll beat COVID-19.”