Malilong: Us against them

·3 min read

THE Department of Transportation has tightened the screw on the unvaccinated, announcing the other day that even workers, who are currently exempted from the “no vaccine, no ride policy,” will no longer be allowed access to public transportation unless they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 starting Feb. 25, 2022.

The 30-day delay in the implementation of the policy will allow affected workers to complete their inoculation, a DOTr official said, as even those who are partially vaccinated are covered by the ban, which will continue to be enforced for as long as the alert status is Alert Level 3 or higher.

Just like with the original “no vaccine, no ride” policy, the expanded version will be applied only in Metro Manila. Other areas currently under Alert Level 3 like the whole of Cebu are still not covered.

Just as well. Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has sharply condemned the ban as discriminatory and anti-poor and without her cooperation, it is highly doubtful if it can be enforced at all.

“I am the governor of all Cebuanos, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated,” she told me by phone last week. She cannot in conscience allow any one of her constituents to be discriminated against on account of their personal conviction vis-a-vis the vaccine, she added.

“I am not anti-vaccine,” she said, adding that she had even instructed the town mayors to keep their health centers open as vaccination sites. She has also authorized them to grant incentives in order to encourage inoculation, she said.

But getting jabbed in the arm should be a matter of choice, not coercion, Governor Garcia argued. What they want to do with their bodies is a decision that should be respected by others. “Why are we making it us against them?”

She also disputed figures that tended to show that the province had the highest number of deaths from Covid in the entire island. The numbers are inaccurate, she said. “They counted deaths from other causes as resulting from Covid.”

To support her point, Garcia forwarded a report signed by Provincial Epidemiology Surveillance Unit head Dr. Glomaris Comendador and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Cristina B. Giango, that showed that of the 2,634 recorded deaths from April 2020 to Jan. 18, 2022, only 1,347 were primarily due to Covid. The rest were listed as deaths from other causes.

“How can the numbers that include death from strangulation or drowning or poisoning as Covid-caused be accurate?”

Whoever is recording the number of fatalities should have a relatively easier job and a less disputed count this time because while the number of Covid incidents continues to soar, there has been no corresponding rise in the number of deaths. Most of the cases have been mild, doctor friends say, which is consistent with the behavior of the current dominant strain, the Omicron.

Many of those who get sick do not even bother to have themselves tested anymore. A friend, who was nursing a slight cold and cough but was otherwise okay, did have himself tested and was found positive. “You had the flu,” another friend teased him. “But you took the test and got yourself an upgrade.”

I wish that such were the case, that Omicron is as less virulent as the virus that causes the common flu so that we can go back to our normal lives where boosters are not prescribed and where there is no more need to classify us as vaccinated or unvaccinated and where everyone can take public transportation without a governor having to raise her voice.

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