Baguio Covid response revisited


Today, the city has taken the cudgels to review its own covid-19 efforts, harnessing an “all of society” response to the pandemic that has claimed untold losses in human life, in jobs and livelihood, and in businesses practically grounded belly up in more than a year of struggle.

City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Pena, acting in behalf of Mayor Benjie Magalong, lost no time to gather in one roof the key sectors that have been at work 24/7, both in their public and private capacities, to precisely take a significant pause in the all-out war against the unseen virus and define the right strategies in combatting the dreaded disease.

Research data and analysis proferred by concerned city health, development planning, and research study groups had one outstanding characteristic that may well prod better steps in keeping the virus contained and ultimately eliminated.

All through the year, the city’s strategy has been a “Hammer and Dance” approach to stem the viral tide. Hammer, to emphasize the harsh restrictions put in place when cases are on the rise. Dance, to bring in economic activities bit by bit, in a bid to get the local economy back on its feet.

There was however one glaring finding that kept the sectoral reps all ears while the data kept pouring in: About 72% of survey respondents were found to be disobedient to even the minimum health standards in place since the pandemic begun in March of 2020. That’s 7 in every 10 respondents doing health and safety measures his way, not what is ordained by both national and local authorities.

The City Administrator readily expressed near disbelief, stating that “all the whole the city government was under the impression that local folks are complying with the MBHS — wearing of face mask and face shield, washing of hands regularly with soap and water, physical distancing of 2 meters, application of hand sanitizers, etc. It’s a revelation, something that the government must begin to wrestle with if the pandemic has to be contained and eventually allow the target population sectors to acquire herd immunity.”

Now, it’s evident that the time is just right for a new perspective to set in, for fresh strategies to materialize, as time ticks away, even as the city’s vaccination rollout in recent days has begun reaping marked progress in vaccine acceptance.
This assembly of the best talent and skills hereabout to formulate a new program of action in the covid-19 struggle represents a significant first step into the now familiar territory of tactical approaches. Plan, prevent, suppress, contain, subdue, mitigate, manage, and eliminate — these appears to be a well-defined sequencing of anti-virus responses, so marked every step of the way.

Throughout other places, especially in the epicenter of the pandemic, things just have been coming up quite brightly, indicating that sooner if not a bit later, the tunnel’s end is within sight and the light flickering in mighty attraction.

It is the vaccination sights that have been, well, a worrisome sight to behold. Cuing up at break of dawn, as seen from TV images, are hordes of would-be-vaccinees, mostly elderlies suddenly roused up from no-show to all-show. So the vaccines are here, by the millions, by different brands, and by a mile no less effective than the other.

Far too long have the target populace — the frontliners, the senior citizens, the individuals with comorbidities — been persuaded, cajoled, threatened even — but the warm bodies at vaccination sites were simply hardly inspiring.

Maybe, it’s because there’s only one vax available and ready to be jabbed into willing arms. Maybe, scores of the eligible have yet to be convinced that there’s no other way to get protected from the dreaded virus but by the force of an inoculating jab. Maybe, there’s just the sturdy wall of hesitancy still separating the populace from being within reach. Maybe, there’s just this mountain of prejudice against a vaccine that’s coming in by the millions, even as the elderly population seems more predisposed to choose the Western vax of their obsession.

Anyhow, a more aggressive vaccine rollout just came about in a couple of days, the scenes of desire to get the proverbial shot simply overshadowing the well-remembered scenes of despair, frustration, helplessness that dominated the TV screen all month long.

This is fulfillment in very real terms, the herculean efforts of those in charge apparently paying off by sheer persistence and limitless patience just for dear Pinoys to get out of the doormat.

Vaccine over virus, that’s what it’s all about. No ifs, no buts, no more malingering doubts. For indeed, how else can anyone in self-denial endure the mocking reality that people out there have something to build on by way of self-protection? How much more the hesitant and the “hele-hele” keep up shying away from it all, with nary a vax jabbed to the max?

All the desired indications are pointing to a steadily operating economy: hospitalization occupancy is down, covid cases are in a declining movement, and the frontline force tending to the sick and the ailing has gotten back its second wind. Time for an economic rebound, after months of a quicksand struggle for most businesses.

Even right here in our midst, nothing perked up the local scene but the crowds that milled about in the vaccine sites, especially when a shopping mall basement parking got used for the lab-a-jab effort. With other brands coming in as part of the mix, the seniors had a field day celebrating the delirious moments. Vaccine to the max, they shrieked in delight.

These gladdening sights should warm the hearts of those batting for vaccine acceptance, for more people to believe in the efficacy of the vax at hand, whether just half of what others are in potency. “Better something now here than nothing at all, than having to wait for kingdom come.”

Globally, the rich nations are even now prepping up for their supply of vaccines produced by locally based makers to include the poorer countries worldwide in their distribution mix. Or else, the easier way is to lift the patent manufacturing restrictions and let the transfer tech processes to begin.

When this shall happen, amid the continuing global surge taking place in poor countries, we can only get down on our knees and plead and dispense with all the proud niceties. Why? It must because dear Philippines seems to be out of the immediate radar of the drug makers. We are just not that close to be in the priority menu, compared to India, Pakistan, and Nepal, whose deadly virus happenstance is recording unparalleled tallies of tragedy.

There is always a better way, from where we sit. How about a no-nonsense, non-stop repetitive get-vaccinated messages flooding all information lanes, online and in trad media? How about a massively conducted public education and advocacy campaign that cuts across all sectors, are community-based, and representative of an “all society” response to an extraordinary need?

As reiterated time and again, this is not to demean and belittle the public information conveyors that government has unleashed since the vaccination program was announced three months back. Everyone engaged in this effort may well have been stretched out too thinly, not unlike the medical frontliners who have been too maxed out, given their minute-by-minute exposure to transmission occurrences. Our PIOs have been the very epitome of uncomplaining, work-to-the-bone type of public servants just doing their darned best to dish it out, minute-by-minute.

That’s exactly what we’ve been experiencing these pandemic times as we continued to grapple with difficult choices, not wanting to take chances that could spell direly in the end. After all, why take chances on some things that can be weighed in closest to our chest?