Stepping in and up

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It was hardly surprising when PRRD’s grim decision came in Thursday night. Scaling down one notch the restriction classification of the MM plus adjacent areas, from ECQ to MECQ, the President simply followed his IATF officials, who must have obviously considered the economic, more than the health, considerations. Already reeling from billions of pesos worth of economic loss during the ECQ reign, there just isn’t any other way but to give the economy the breather it direly needs.

This is not to downgrade the health and safety reasons that could have shifted the response gears another notch up, rather than the modified restricted level it has just been imposed. Hospital systems were breaking apart, with covid cases — invariably of the Delta variant strain — continuing its upward climb. It’s not yet a surge, assure the health officials — beleaguered they may have been over unspent, unliquidated, unutilized billions of budgetary allocations set for 2020. Oh, it’s a surge alright, the Octa research observers chimed in.

Yes indeed, the awesomely distressing numbers remained upnorth, no doubt resulting from too lax a mobility these past weeks, except for the checkpoints that have invariably turned into chokepoints, the vehicular line extending far down. And why wouldn’t the numbers remain in an upswing, averaging at 12,000 in just a day throughtout the week, even listing up beyond the 14,000 count twice in that period?

Which means that prior to the recorded upsurge, the infections were already there, hovering here and there, regardless what viral lifeform it was, dreadfully now caused by the worrisome Delta Variant. All along, the people have been lulled into complacency, prior to the ECQ lockdown, that Filipino resiliency being what it is, we’d get past this scary variant. After all, vaccination has been going on with a relentless seriousness that is just as disrespectfuly as the viral strain.

And this is where contradictions have shown just how efficient government response has been all along. Under ECQ, there ought to have been lockdowns precisely to restrict mobility, a primary source of infection. Oh there were just that, but parallel these harsh measures with two super-spreaders — the vaccination on-site and the ayuda doleouts in other crowd-drawing venues — and one wonders just what it is the government is battling.

The ayuda effort is by itself a magnanimous response to an obvious economic need. Lock down mobility and people are prevented from working in jobs that have dis-materialized due to business shutdowns or scaled down operations. Hunger disrespects rules, and people may just die from it, not having the wherewithal to support basic needs, not just for themselves, but for the families they’re struggling mightily to raise.

Prolonging the ECQ by another two weeks would definitely beg the question: another ayuda around the corner, another round of doleouts for people hankering for more government aid?

As for the vaccination program, it has actually been a roller-coaster of an effort, a now-you-have-it, now-you-don’t kind of affair that government implementors have been hammering out with the populace they’ve been encouraging to get jabbed. One reason why the vaxx effort is having a snail’s pace of execution is the supply problem, and the woes that have been needlessly raised by the simple lack of the stuff.

On good days, millions of the dosage are in our midst. On bad days that can come in a snap, they’re gone. Yet, reports continue to hound wondering pundits why some lucky peeps are even bragging of having gotten the third jab.

Oh yes, there have been days when the vax supply just couldn’t hold, when the vax sites had to be declogged when lengthy lines were being filled up in a matter of minutes, when health authorities were themselves beside scurrying to and fro, devising ways to get the crowd off-roads, when even LGUs who were bearing the brunt of the anti-covid struggle were tweaking the process in on-target adjustment to what was taking place on the ground.

For those of us who have dared not get beyond the borders, it has likewise been a touch-and-go thing. Touch us not and we’re safe. Get going out and fear sets in, the dreaded Delta said to be deadlier than its predecessors, faster in transmissibility, quicker than any brown fox jumping over the laziest dog.

Amid the turmoil billowing out of the Metro area, we’re dumbfounded to even hear of celebrities filming scenes hereabouts running roughshod over basic health protocols, much more so sweeping under the rug specific practices made for the issuance of permits. Someone just got away, upon learning of getting the virus, along with 9 others in a group of about a hundred.

Well, the apologies have been publicly made and the issue should deserve nothing more than a raised eyebrow. But our Mayor couldn’t be reined in, obviously pushing the mind to remember two fiascoes that occurred last year — the birthday bash at an elitist hotel and the magistrate who braved showing off judicial might over a simple enforcement of traffic rules. This latest affront to basic health practices has led city officials to shut down filming activities, even as the Mayor himself assures that further investigation will be done for sanctions to be imposed.

What’s taking place is unsurprisingly very Pinoy, glaringly characteristic how public reactions develop. A celebrity commits a health infraction and public uproar develops. Billions of pesos are unspent, or even mis-spent, and the whistle-blowers get the comeuppance. Remember past skirmishes over public funds?

That’s what is glaringly very Pinoy. How else explain that regardless of over-lengthening lines of vehicles inching every defining distance, we can still take things on the witty side, we can still manage to break out in an impish smile, admittedly enough to project what a unique race we all are in this neck of our world.

So how does the DV onslaught been these recent days. Nationally, as this is being written up, some 177 Delta cases have erupted all over the country. Our own tireless Mayor Benjie, ever the confident on-hand situation helmsman, rendered a report whose numbers portray a nationally grim outlook. Off 177 recorded cases of the dreaded DV, 144 are local cases, 3 are returning OFWs, while 30 are on the verifiable level.

“We’re now seeing more Delta variants compared to the Alpha and Beta mutants in recent months. As of now, the Delta variant cases all over the country stand at over millenial mark” he grimly states, reiterating what he has been pleading all this time, what every sensible public official has been struggling all these implacid months:

“For the vulnerable sectors, be vaccinated; if not, better stick it out at home; for the unvaccinated, don’t waste time any longer, get vaccinated.”

Indeed, the constant challenge this and later weeks was for the Delta variant to be halted, no matter what. Nearly 2,000 cases have already been detected — probably more if only the Gnome facility were quick enough in their sequencing procedures.

Indeed, extreme care has always been a primordial task for everyone. And yet, as the continuing task had gone on, the super fear emerges, loud and clear enough. This is a super variant that’s unlike its parental forms, deadlier, quicker, and expectedly disrespectful of age, sex, status, and aspiration. The realization that it had reached Pinoy shores came so sudden like a bolt of lightning that has let loose streaks of illumination across the darkening skies.

It is true that life that goes on without livelihood access — jobs to be worked on for family income — is no life after all. In an unexpected surge, the numbers were simply on the verge of heaving up, spiking numbers of every possible factor that signifies all’s not yet well.

Battling the covid virus has been a unique experience more than a year ago. Resources have been dissipated, vanishing just like that in a matter of consequential days. But the numbers just couldn’t tell a lie, unyielding to a stare-down, simply because they are very real, daunting, forbidding even. Yet, as our Mayor Benjie exemplifies, the Filipino spirit never yields, the Pinoy courage stands out over the challenges facing him. Haggard by the rigors of the day-to-day vigil, the Pinoy in us just trudges along.

Yes, nothing beats identifying the people with whom the positive individuals had been in contact with, including others within the physical range of the expanded landscape. Clearly, as over a year of struggling through the pandemic, working together pays of, reason why the our local numbers have not gone through the roof.  Dapat ingat in making Angat, Baguio!

Again, let the cry ring out louder: this is nothing more than a mere race against time. We have been tried and tested in countless adversities. Being Pinoy will get us past this one crisis, standing together, struggling together, winning together. Our new Olympic heroes have proven just that, by reason of grit, we can be great. #

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QUICK TAKES: Baguio tourism takes a proud vow for the focused efforts in helping ramp up vaccination hereabouts. All week, Ms Gladys Vergara, lady chieftain of the Baguio Tourism Council, has harnessed and mobilized the unvaccinated tourism workers for the precious jab. Never have so many had materialized at vax sites in so few a moment’s notice… Not to be outdone, the newly organized Creative Baguio City Council has also ramped up critically needed engagements with various sectors, this time with dynamic groups that have been lighting up the creative scene by their magnificent works. Kudos, Dr. Raymundo Rovillos for the tireless energy.