The most wonderful news of this parlous year happened to the country right after the President’s last State of the Nation Address.
Hidilyn Diaz gave the country its first Olympic gold medal. Nothing could make us prouder as a nation and a people. It was like rain falling upon the parched earth of our difficult lives during this pandemic.
Congratulations! At last!
In Taiwan meanwhile, Taiwan’s cabinet, upon the recommendation of the Central Epidemic Command Center gave residents good news yesterday. Level 3 restrictions, in force for more than a month, were lowered to Level 2.
Level 3 was some kind of a “soft lockdown” and Level 2 is similar to our GCQ. The decision was reached after community transmission in the country dropped considerably.
Under Level 2, social distancing is still enforced, with 1.5 meters in indoor spaces and 1 meter in outdoor areas. Maximum crowds indoors would be no more than 50 persons, and 100 persons for outdoor areas.
The CECC also lifted the ban on indoor dining, including in supermarkets and shopping malls. Wedding banquets, public funerals and temple festivals will once more be allowed. These were proscribed during the recent surge of the coronavirus pandemic.
Outdoor activities, such as fishing, camping, basketball and other sports activities will again be allowed, subject to the usual registration systems implemented by local government units and other health protocols.
But karaoke parlors, dance halls, hostess bars, MTV and KTV bars (which had been traced as one of the main sources of the community transmission), are still not allowed to re-open.
Though face-to-face classes are still not allowed for the fall opening of schools, it is expected that as community transmission continues to go down, classes will eventually return to normal.
The strict quarantine protocols after the sudden surge of coronavirus cases wrought problems for our overseas contract workers.
Since they are normally housed in dormitory rooms of four or six-person capacity, when the strict quarantine protocols were instituted, the health department in coordination with the local labor bureaus required factories and their brokers to quarantine workers in single-occupancy rooms. The scramble for available rental locations posed problems for our OFWs.
We received complaints especially from those working in the heavily-infected cities where workers were not allowed to leave their rooms, with meals delivered to them in their rooms. Our kababayans wanted to go to the nearby 7-Eleven or Family Mart convenience stores to buy food and other essentials, but even that was not allowed.
Our labor attaches and welfare officers made representations with labor local and health officials for some measure of relaxation, but health and safety concerns came foremost. Arresting the rate of community transmission was non-negotiable.
Now those restrictions are loosened, after extensive contact tracing efforts succeeded in minimizing the spread of the virus. Recall that Taiwan’s immediate and preventive closure of the island’s borders to the usual influx of mainland Chinese visitors, and later to other countries with heavy infection rates worked to control the transmission. Most of the hundreds of cases were imported, with very little community transmission.
But after more than a year of very successful control management of the coronavirus infection, one of the world’s best, the virus suddenly came in with a vengeance in May. Still, in two months of strict quarantine and health safety restrictions, Taiwan’s officialdom was able to temper the rates of transmission.
Once more, it shows how good and effective governance is the best antidote to crisis.
Meanwhile, the health ministry has provided emergency use authorization (EUA) for a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Medigen, enabling the company to manufacture the vaccine.
Due to the huge demand for vaccines worldwide, a major problem is the shortage of raw materials for vaccine manufacture, thus our hope to get Medigen to partner with a local biotechnology company so we could source some of our vaccine requirements from Taiwan would likely not happen in the near future.
The limited production of this and two other prospective Taiwanese vaccine manufacturers would likely be utilized only for domestic use. Still, as viral pandemics might become endemic, it would be best for the Philippines to seriously plan having our own vaccine manufacturing capability, even in cooperation or joint venture with foreign companies.