FAIR COMMENT | Alito L. Malinao
The answer to that question is “Nobody knows.” And here’s why.
On February 10, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that there was a perceptible drop of coronavirus cases around the world. It said then that the number of new Covid-19 cases reported across the globe has declined for a fourth week in a row based on its data.
That announcement gave a glimmer of hope for countries in the world that have seen thousands of their citizens who have either died or infected by the virus.
But the news was ephemeral because on March 2 WHO announced that a surge in coronavirus cases was witnessed across the world last week, first time in seven weeks. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on that the spike in cases was “disappointing but not surprising.” He urged all countries to continue their Covid-19 restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.
So, we are back to square one.
According to Tedros, some countries were rushing in going back to normal, especially after the arrival of vaccines. ‘If countries rely solely on vaccines, they are making a mistake. Basic public health measures remain the foundation of the response,” Tedros said.
It is unrealistic to think that the Covid-19 pandemic would be over by the end of this year.
The coronavirus outbreak, which apparently started at China’s Wuhan City in December 2019, has so far infected more than 113 million people and claimed 2.5 million lives worldwide.
Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said that it would be premature and unrealistic to think that the virus would be gone the end of the year.
Ryan added that they still face a huge challenge in rolling out vaccines equitably and fairly to those who most need them around the world.
Here in our country, the economic sector has been urging the President to ease quarantine restrictions in order to restart the economy and bring back the thousands of jobs lost to the pandemic. The clamor has become more strident after we started the vaccination rollout with the arrival of the donated 600,000 doses of Sinovac and some 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from Belgium.
Our government did not pay for the vaccines since Sinovac was donated by China while AstraZeneca was given to us through the COVAX facility, a United Nations-led vaccine sharing scheme designed to provide vaccines to poor countries which have been left behind after the rich countries cornered available vaccines.
While the 1.5 million doses would be of great help in our vaccination program, they are nonetheless only a fraction of the 140 million doses (2 doses per person) to inoculate 70 million Filipinos out of our population of 108 million in order to achieve the so-called herd immunity from the virus.
Lately, there has been a surge of coronavirus cases in the country and there are fears that we will have a repeat of the situation a year ago when our hospitals and quarantine facilities were almost overwhelmed by the number of daily cases.
Thus, it is imperative for the government to speed up the vaccination rollout not just among health workers but also among the rest of the populace including the vulnerable sectors such as our workers and the elderly.