POSTSCRIPT / January 9, 2022 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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After the pandemic comes the endemic

The COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the country in alternating high and low waves of infections should settle down – how soon we don’t know – to a more manageable endemic, but at a great price in lives lost, resources wasted, and opportunities missed.

Like a tsunami that withdraws after walloping a seaside community, the pandemic will have to recede in time, leaving the victim-population to pick up the pieces and build back better and wiser.

Life simply has to go on – for survivors of the pandemic that has been taking victims mostly from those who did not have the foresight, the means, and the time to prepare adequately for it. Or those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The transition from a pandemic to an endemic is the hazy positive angle some of us have been looking forward to despite our lack of the expertise and organized scientific data to prop up the wishful theory.

(In epidemiology, an infection is said to be endemic in a population when that infection is constantly maintained at a baseline level in a geographic area without external inputs. For example, chickenpox is endemic in the United Kingdom, but malaria is not. – Wikipedia)

We hostages on these islands continue hoping and praying, watching for the glimmer of daybreak as we take the deadly pandemic blows in the dark.

One immutable rule of nature is balance. The equilibrium may be disturbed now and then, but balance – nature’s equation – somehow returns to assert itself as the law.

When humans and other living things begin to overwhelm the ecosystem’s life-support, either they or the system add or subtract from themselves or their requirements to bring back the balance.

When natural resources, which have been notoriously mismanaged, can no longer support the burgeoning human population, people start dying en masse, as in plagues and pandemics.

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Another phenomenon in nature is cycles. For some reason, most movements seem to always come in waves. Note that most graphs drawn to show the ebb and flow of the viral pandemic infections go up and down in waves of various patterns.

With the citizens cooperating with the public health experts and the competent administrators in government, we should be able to flatten the waves of infection of whatever variant that may come our way.

The surges triggered by the Omicron variant have been alarming. With the number of daily cases soaring from less than 1,000 last week to more than 21,000 now, and the positivity rate hitting 40 percent compared to the less than 5 percent per WHO advice, the jumps are so scary.

(Reproduction number refers to how many people are infected or contaminated by one case or carrier. On the other hand, the positivity rate refers to the percentage of people found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested.)

The Omicron is reportedly more transmissible than previous variants but less severe in its attack on the human body and its demands on public health front liners and the facilities of hospitals.

With this somewhat benign characteristic of the Omicron, if it is difficult to check its spread anyway, we pray that its contaminating (without killing) more people could help propagate natural immunity against COVID-19.

The ramped-up mass vaccinations and the immunity gained by the unvaccinated when infected with Omicron could have a combined effect resembling herd immunity. This level is reached when at least 70 percent of the population are immunized by vaccination or via actual infection.

When there are that many bodies (some 70 million Filipinos) whose immunity will not allow their hosting and transmitting the virus or its mutants, the spread of the disease will slow down and the pandemic likely to be reduced to an endemic that recurs only in a controlled area.

The downgrading of the disease to endemic will enable people to return to their normal routine, rebuild institutions, and recharge the economy. Properly governed and guided by Divine direction, the people will then be better fortified against the endemic if it appears again.

* * *

But the transition to a tamer endemic could exact a stiff price. For one, thousands more people will have to die harboring and bodily blocking the virus, thereby helping achieve herd immunity.

And then, draconian measures could be resorted to by the government to protect the greater number. This assumes that officials flexing their political muscles are not motivated by ulterior designs.

Citizens may also be asked to temporarily give up some of their accustomed rights and liberties. Secular officials could tell even the dominant religion how many of its devotees should be allowed in places of worship at any one time. Local officials could start wielding powers to accost/arrest those who step out of their houses if they have no proof of having been vaccinated. Et cetera.

Somebody might even try using the public health crisis, exacerbated by economic difficulties, as an excuse to suspend the holding of the May national elections. This holdover “No-El” scenario is unthinkable among normal people in normal times.

Speculating on the costly transition to endemic, we realize that we need not only compliant (intimidated?) citizens but also competent, responsible and patriotic leaders to move properly from a pandemic to an endemic situation.

Let us not entrust the pandemic-to-endemic transition in 2022-2023 to just any bunch of characters playing god. The sensitive process requires having a woke population and voters who are more discerning and demanding when they cast the ballot on May 9.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 11, 2022)

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News RoundUp

Philippine STARComelec targets January 17 start of printing ballots
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MANILA — The Commission on Elections is targeting to start the printing of ballots for the May 9 national and local elections on Monday. Today, the poll body intends to complete the final ballot faces for printing, which bear the final list of candidates for national positions. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARPhilippines breaks record COVID-19 cases again with 39,004 new infections
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MANILA - The Philippines logged 39,004 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, topping the previous record of 37,207 cases set just a day before. The new infections bring the country’s total caseload to 3,168,379. Of this, 280,813 are currently sick. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARDOH sees community transmission of Omicron in Metro Manila
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MANILA - The Department of Health said Saturday that there is community transmission of the highly infectious Omicron variant in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the latest surge in infections in the country that is reaching unprecedented highs. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARGovernment simplifies processes to ramp up vaccination
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MANILA — Acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said those who want to get vaccinated do not need to register before going to inoculation sites and to secure a medical clearance unless they are suffering from certain illnesses. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARGov’t allows quarantine hotels to function as isolation facilities
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MANILA — Acting presidential spokesperson and task force co-chair Karlo Nograles announced Friday that they have approved the recommendation of the Department of Tourism for quarantine hotels to also function as isolation sites. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARMarcos camp disputes Carpio claim on ill-gotten wealth
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MANILA — The camp of presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has dismissed as speculation the claim of retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio that over P300 billion in ill-gotten wealth and unpaid taxes may not be recovered if he wins the presidential election in May. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARPhilippines agrees to buy India anti-ship missile system
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MANILA — The Philippines has agreed to buy an anti-ship missile system from India, the defense minister said Friday, shoring up its security in the face of growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARPalace to rely on house-to-house vaccination of elderly, people with comorbidities
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MANILA - The government is counting on house-to-house campaigns to vaccinate senior citizens and other persons vulnerable to COVID-19 especially those who are living outside the National Capital Region Plus. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARRobredo prefers beating Marcos in polls instead of disqualification
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MANILA — If Vice President Leni Robredo had her way, she would rather beat her political rival, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., in the upcoming elections instead of him being disqualified as a presidential candidate in the May polls. (Jan 15)
Philippine STARSchools in Metro Manila stop classes as Omicron cases surge
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MANILA — Schools in the Metro Manila were ordered Friday to suspend online classes for a week, as an Omicron-driven record surge in infections ravages the metropolis of 13 million. COVID-19 is ripping through the national capital region and surrounding provinces. (Jan 15)



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