[by Mikayla de Guzman]
On November 15, 2021, the Philippine Medical Association called for parents to stop bringing children aged 11 and below inside malls amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. PMA President Dr. Benito Atienza reminded parents that there are no vaccines available for children just yet, and told them that if they would like to bring their children outside, it should be to public parks with wide-open spaces. He also reminded them to observe proper social distancing.
The fact that the Philippine Medical Association had taken it upon themselves to issue a call for parents to stop needlessly bringing their children to indoor public spaces may be seen as a testament to Metro Manila’s current situation, almost two weeks after being declared on Alert Level 2. With children having been cooped up in their homes and unable to go out and play in the ways they’ve been accustomed to, parents have been eager to take their children outside. Aside from this, the Christmas season has come. With the loosened restrictions, people are now taking the chance to accomplish their holiday shopping, and families are now free to gather as they have done in the years prior to the pandemic. This, of course, served to heighten the number of individuals occupying public spaces– whether they be malls or parks.
The situation is troubling, to say the least, considering that there is a confirmed case of a two-year-old infected with the virus. While it is understandable that we all crave to be back in the places we once used to frequent and to enjoy the changes of scenery that we can now afford, we must still be mindful of the fact that the virus did not dissipate.
The Philippines, at about 30 million jabs strong in its vaccination rollout, is still far from the target vaccination rate of 80% of the population. And even when we reach herd immunity, ex[erts say that this is not enough– not if the priority groups (i.e. seniors and those with comorbidities) are not fully vaccinated. As of September 2021, according to the National Vaccine Operation Center, out of 8.48 million senior citizens in the A2 category, only about 4.2 million received both doses of a vaccine. Among the 9 million part of the A3 group, 7 million received their second dose. This number provides us a sobering glimpse into reality. We cannot afford to get complacent. That is still about 4-6 million people at-risk of infection– a fraction of which, if they get sick, could easily overwhelm the capacity of healthcare institutions in the country once again and consequently launch us into a new string of lockdowns. And what then? We would be back to where we started; unable to go out, unable to see our loved ones.
And so even as the Department of Health and the national government encourage us to go outside and revitalize the economy, let us still keep mindful of the fact that the virus is here to stay– at least for the immediate future. Let our actions be guided by this sobering reality, and in doing so not only protect ourselves but also one another. #DM