Tough times on independence day

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It has always been said, tongue in check, that when the going gets tough, only the tough gets going.

And here we are, set to commemorate the 123rd Philippine Independence amid a continuing pandemic — set to unleash once more the burning fervor of thinking about the nation, of minding what’s down the road, while battling it out against the dreaded virus.

Anything to celebrate? There’s aplenty. For one thing, there’s our resilience as a people, demonstrated amply by the ups and downs of a health threat that has gripped the country far too long. For another, there’s the continuing battle being waged virtually on all fronts, showcasing a government all-out in response to the raging epidemic. Yet another, there’s the delicate balance everyone seems well cognizant, the health and safety needs versus the economic.

In recent months, the pandemic has wrought much of the nation’s capital, including the adjacent provinces, under the stranglehold of the deadly virus. Cases surged up beyond the rooftops even eclipsing the average tally of July-August 2020, when the virus was hitting practically at will, an unseen enemy unlike any other, inflicting its lethal grip anytime, anywhere.

Just last night, after weeks of struggle punctuated by heightened restrictions, the authorities were already talking of opening up the still restricted doorways of other business establishments where contamination has historically been marked. Down to general community quarantine, just like the rest of the country? Why not? The downtrend slide of registered cases in the nation’s epicenter region is trending something more augury than before.

But even as the euphoria of down-sliding covid cases could even dissipate, health officials are warning that new epicenters throughout the country are on the rise. Davao in Mindanao, Cebu and Bacolod in the Visayas, and not far behind are Tacloban at the east, and the Negros provinces at the west. Clusters of communities in these places are erupting with cases like no other, principally through community-based transmission.

On the vaccination effort, the nation’s stewards planning and executing the overall plan are taking pains, and apologizing, for the interminable delays and glitzes in the vax program. Where just the week before only Sinovac and AstraZ were the visibly marked doses available at vax sites, now other drugs are crowding these out: Pfizer, Sputnik, and soon, Moderna, and more arrivals of the SV and AZ kind.

The supply problem was enough to put Metro Manila mayors right before the telecasting crew decrying the sordid situation. Where have all the vaunted vaccines gone? Not with us, the small town local executives would chime in, we’re out of these ourselves. Not with us, piped in the outlying community heads, whose populace of not more than 5,000 souls has not seen any of the vax.

Problems ranging from supply to logistics to freezing equipment in the course of delivery have been hounding the vaccination effort, no doubt engendered by a reliance on what the global drug makers can apportion. Indeed, much of the supply has been practically held in countries of origin, purposely to keep their target people jabbed in their arms. Indeed, poor countries like dear ol’ Pinas, long the doormat in our neck of the world, has to elicit more than just the historic ties binding us with the wealthier, more advanced nations.

Herd immunity down the road? Experts are of the scientific view that at the glacial pace the vaccination program is having, that road may well be too far off to be within sight this year. It takes about 300,000 daily jabs starting June all the way to December to hit the target goal of inoculating 70% of the nation’s population. Midway this June, we’re only jabbing 5 million arms for the first dose, and 2.5 million for the second. Do the math and you’ll scringe how herd immunity can be attained by year-end.

Indeed, as a people, we’ve shown tenacity of purpose, strength of character, and valor in combat. These are dominant Filipino traits that can get us through the present-day travails. Wars, disasters, poverty, climate change — in all these fronts the Filipino spirit to rise above adversities has become legendary, that even the overseas global market has taken serious notice, so serious that it has often been said, “get every Filipino home and the world shall stand still.”

As we mark yet another milestone year of independence, isn’t it about time to mark in time how we can accelerate the move towards freedom from this lethal illness? As the hopeful in us remain up in the clouds, “dapat Angat, dapat Ingat, dapat isang Pangkat, ang lahing Pilipino!”