Painful was how a Palace official described the latest declaration of a strict lockdown after about a hundred more cases of the Covid-19’s Delta variant were reported last week.
The 97 Delta variant cases, including “clusters” of local transmission reported by the Department of Health (DoH) last Thursday — belatedly some say — brought the count of Covid-19 patients with the highly-transmissible variant to 216 before the last weekend.
Business groups were divided on the decision, with some of them even suspecting the government’s private partners in the fight against Covid-19 as being alarmist when the declaration of an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) — the strictest of lockdowns in the country — was proposed.
The situation on the ground, however, deemed the need to enforce very strict rules against the people’s movement as the B.1.617.2, the variant that originated from India, has mutations on the spike protein and has the potential to infect human cells easier.
Patients with the Delta variant may be more contagious if they contract the virus, and it could spread wider and more easily to others.
The Delta variant is now the dominant strain in the United States.
Just months ago, we have seen reports of how India — a vaccine-producing country — had failed to limit infections and had seen the near-collapse of its overwhelmed medical institutions.
Funeral pyres were common sights in parks, fields and open spaces when India’s crematoriums could no longer handle the sheer number of deaths.
We could not afford such a situation to happen here.
Metro Manila mayors had convinced the Palace and the agencies tasked to confront the local spread of the pandemic to minimize the people’s movement to the fullest in certain areas of concerns, especially in the metropolis — the country’s business hub.
Painful it is but helpless as we are, we need to take this bull by the horns, and a lockdown is the only solution available for us — and any country for that matter — as we wait for the faster rollout of anti-Covid vaccines globally.
As of end-July, more than 4.11 billion anti-Covid vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.
It is equal to 53 doses for every 100 people, but the stark gap between vaccination programs in the various countries is evident as global vaccine trackers noted the differences in the distribution and administration of the vaccine doses between the wealthy countries against the still developing nations.
The US, for example, has administered nearly 350 million or enough to cover its whole population of 333 million and then some.
It’s the same with Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Finland, Hungary, Switzerland, Mongolia, Chile and China.
The Philippines is far from the positive count, inoculating just above 20 million of its 110 million population, or 18 per 100 people. We could not see the horizon of victory with these numbers, yet.
Only Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos are with better numbers than the Philippines in Southeast Asia that is led by Malaysia, which had inoculated 63 per 100 people.
With that, we could see this side of the world is behind the priorities of the vaccine rollouts that are controlled by the big pharmaceutical companies of the wealthiest nations.
Not even India, where many of these vaccines come from, could hasten the vaccination of its people as it can only inoculate less than 40 percent of its population.
Painful it is because it is going to be a long wait as the Philippine economy continuously takes a beating with the lasting solutions yet in sight.
When the lockdowns were eased at the start of the year, government planners expected the gradual return of workers to their jobs, but an ECQ declaration in March, the second after a year, has scarred the annual unemployment rate that rose to 10.3 percent or 4.5 million at the end of last year.
The Philippine Statistics Authority said it was the highest recorded annual unemployment rate since April 2005.
Underemployed Filipinos were estimated at 6.6 million or 16 percent of the total employed persons in January 2021.
A shock is expected at the end of the country’s third ECQ on 20 August. Saving lives, however, is foremost.
We could rebuild the economy together when this is over. We should survive the challenges first, however.