Wenceslao: A process

Bong O. Wenceslao
·3 min read

THE lockdown is back in Metro Manila, which is inevitable given the rise again of Covid-19 infections there. Other steps can probably be taken that would not affect the economy heavily but the imposition of lockdowns is the most effective, based on our previous experience. In Cebu, that may not happen because of the resistance of local leaders.

For people with meager resources, lockdowns are not good. I know, because whatever savings I had when I retired vanished in just a matter of a few weeks we were under enhanced community quarantine or ECQ. Most of my plans got derailed because these were rather dependent on face-to-face interactions.

But looking back, the alternative could have been worse. We have seen what happened to prominent personalities who caught the virus and succumbed in the process. Our health system would have been engulfed given its fragile state. The difference now is that the solution is within reach. Its just that the government has been slow in rolling out the vaccines.

What happened? It seems to me like we are stuck on Phase 1. Some frontliners have already been vaccinated, true, but we still have to move to the next target vaccine recipients, the senior citizens. Can we call this a case of government incompetence? Because it seems like we have become laggards in Southeast Asia as far as the rollout of the vaccines is concerned.

People are obviously impatient. This does not bode well for the Duterte administration considering that another presidential election is coming next year. If the vaccination effort is slow, the issue on incompetence will surely be raised. And the imposition of another lockdown would be an issue, too, because a damaged economy affects the perception of voters with regards to the country’s leadership.

Gov. Gwen Garcia may have already seen that, thus her resistance to the idea of imposing another lockdown. It’s a popular stance, although it could backfire if it results to the loosening of people’s grasp of the needed protocols and the number of Covid-19 infections rise some more and overwhelm our health facilities. The goal, after all, is the effective control of the spread of the virus.

Government should therefore focus on untangling the snags in its vaccination effort. I have already pointed to the experience in the US where the speedy rollout of the vaccines has started to halt the spread of the virus. In the end, it’s our only way out of the pandemic. The lockdowns are temporary measures until we achieve the so-called herd immunity through vaccination.

Which means that our current attempt to go back to normal is not tenable. The Cebuano word for that is “pinugos” or forced. The point is that even with vaccination, the virus will still be with us. That is why an infection expert in the US is still not discouraging the wearing of face masks even with a successful vaccination effort.

So if you are getting impatient, don’t be. Nobody told us about magic solutions because there are none. Solving the pandemic will still be a process.