Editorial: Burning bodies

·3 min read

COMPLEMENTING SunStar Cebu’s Associated Press (AP) story on the global state of the Covid-19 pandemic hitting four million is a photograph of a woman, all wrapped in a safety suit, on her knees, apparently wailing her heart out in immeasurable grief. The elements rose up behind her, smoke and fire from an ongoing cremation of bodies, one of which the love of her life.

The image, as riveting and as real as it was, only comes out as a rather inferior synechdoche to the scale and magnitude of tragedy that four million deaths can ever bring on the face of the earth.

The AP story cites John Hopkins University’s death tally of this pandemic to that of the Peace Research Institute’s estimate of the number of people killed in battle in “all of the world wars since 1982”—they are about as equal now.

“The toll is three times the number of people killed in traffic accidents around the globe every year. It is about equal to the population of Los Angeles or the nation of Georgia. It is equivalent to more than half of Hong Kong or close to 50 percent of New York City,” the AP reported.

While it has been the shameless trend among governments all over the world to temper their accounting of all the harrowing realities on the ground, we’re bound to ask just what sort of undercount are we looking at.

While the vaccine rollouts are ongoing and indeed resulted in significant fall in death figures, the dreaded Delta version of the virus, first identified in India, has wreaked havoc in many places, creating alarming new waves and pushing economies to the brink of catastrophe. The delta mutant has been spreading rapidly “even in vaccination success stories like the US, Britain and Israel.”

While the British government prepares to lift its remaining area lockdowns, it tallied a one-day total of new infections of 30,000, a record high since January. Other countries reimposed stricter protocols and still others stepped up their vaccination efforts.

“The variants, uneven access to vaccines and the relaxation of precautions in wealthier countries are “a toxic combination that is very dangerous,” warned Ann Lindstrand, a top immunization official at the World Health Organization.

Last month, US President Joe Biden said G7 countries—US, UK, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy—have committed to donate at least one billion doses to poor countries. Although, while at that, some of these countries are also looking at proceeding with booster doses for its citizens.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III this week sounded like a voice in the wild when he called on the United Nations and the World Health Organization to remind developed countries that a big bulk of the world’s populace still has to receive vaccines, and thinking of giving booster shots at this point may be an insensitive move.

By the looks of it, we still have all the elements thhat leaves us vulnerable and our state of public health in fragile state—slow vaccination rollout, vaccine hesitancy, presence of variants. Our best line of defense as of now is a stricter inbound protocol, something which our National Government had pushed via its IATF rules, and our local health care system in place, at least for Cebu.

With the risk of sounding like the perennial alarmist in this pandemic, we continue to push for caution while we highlight scenarious like the one represented by the AP photo of the wailing woman if only to emphasize the message that if we slacken off immaturely in this pandemic, we’re bound for a whole lot more of burning bodies.

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