Last Thursday, while my wife, Becky, was listening to the evening news on her iPad, I saw her wiping her eyes, the way she would when she’s crying. Thinking that she might have heard some bad news, I approached her and asked what was wrong. She answered that she was actually happy, upon seeing that the plane carrying the first shipment of the AstraZeneca (AZ) coronavirus vaccines had already landed.
More than 500,000 AZ vaccine doses have arrived, and around 9 million more are expected to arrive during the year, courtesy of the World Health Organization-led COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility.
The tears of joy my wife shed are an expression of hope, which I’m sure many of our countrymen also feel with the rollout of our vaccination program. It will still take some time before we can truly experience the freedom which this pandemic snatched from us, but at least now, there is that glimmer of hope. That’s good enough for now to reassure us that we’re already seeing the light at the end of this dark COVID-19 tunnel.
Despite all the doubts we had about how we could ever get out of this quarantine rut as a nation, hope springs eternal once more that we’ll not only survive this pandemic, we’ll prevail over it! That is, of course, if we start playing our cards right from here on.
We’ve kept on saying that COVID-19 has grown to pandemic proportions because of our excessive fear making us fumble in our decisions. It may seem like a joke, but fear—and the stress it automatically produces—makes us dumber. That’s why we should never make an important decision when we are fearful or under stress because our decision-making process will not be at its best.
The reason is because fear and stress activate the fight-or-flight response and divert most of the circulation to our legs and muscles, depriving our brain of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function well when making vital decisions.
The diversion of the circulation to our legs and muscles explains why men are able to carry refrigerators and big appliances or furniture when there’s a fire, or outsprint a professional runner when running away from the enemy.
But if the fear and stress persist without relenting, that can lead to bad decisions, such as deciding to ditch the face mask and face shield, or inviting some friends for a weekend party to break the boredom of continued quarantine.
So, we just need to be a little more relaxed—remain vigilant and in full control of our emotions, thinking and behavior. Those who develop compliance fatigue over the safeguards that have to be strictly followed are those who feel so uptight about the situation, they unwittingly throw caution to the wind.
Let’s stop feeling that we need to keep running away from the virus like it’s the saber-toothed tiger of our nightmares. Let’s do what we have to do, work if we must; we just need to follow the prescribed precautions. I know of many affluent people who have stayed home since the start of the pandemic, yet got infected with the virus just the same.
It’s most likely that their immune system has significantly weakened because of their sedentary life, lack of sunshine exposure, and no stimulation by the millions of harmless microbes we encounter daily outside.
Our immune system needs to spar with harmless or minimally harmful microbes daily as a preparation for more serious infections like COVID-19. If we deprive our immune cells of this regular sparring exercise, they will readily succumb when they finally encounter even a minor load of the virus.
On a more serious note, looking at the countries that did extremely well in repelling the virus, one factor stands out quite clearly: They had a united front and a rock-solid commitment to cover all bases and leave no room for the virus to thrive.
Their leaders closed ranks and appealed to the people’s sense of nationalism and patriotism, as they would when being confronted with a foreign invader. Even at the start, when everything was uncertain about how the pandemic would turn out, their leaders spoke of their inspiring vision of how a united front could vanquish the virus.
President Duterte may not realize it, but his continuing rift with Vice President Leni Robredo and other opposition leaders is dissipating much of the collective energy the nation needs in addressing this problem. If he could harness his political charisma and strong will to forge unity rather than discord, generate more goodwill rather than ill will, I’m sure we can get the people more optimistic, more inspired and more committed to do whatever it takes to lick COVID-19 more quickly and for good.