Being Proactive in the New Normal
Complacency may be our biggest enemy in this pandemic time. Pending the achievement of herd immunity, no one can surely say that we are winning the battle against Covid-19. Not just yet.
It is becoming clear that health protocols remain the best shield against the spread of Covid-19 and its variants. While vaccines would help us survive the virus, they would not be enough to prevent us from getting infected and passing the virus to others. This means we cannot drop the face mask and face shield policy just yet, as long as the pandemic is in our midst. The transmission of the virus occurs when we lower our guard—or drop our masks.
A general lockdown, on the other hand, causes a false sense of security and chokes the economy. The recent two-week lockdown in Metro Manila, for example, has already forced the government’s economic team to downgrade the 2021 gross domestic product growth forecast by two percentage points, from the previous estimate of 6 percent to 7 percent to a new range of 4 percent to 5 percent. Imposing granular quarantines, not general lockdown, and allowing a vast number of people to earn a living, to me, is the most efficient way of confronting the health crisis.
Daily Covid-19 cases have exceeded the 10,000 mark in the past few weeks, despite the declaration of Metro Manila and other areas under the Enhanced Community Quarantine, or the most stringent form of lockdown. Cases are shooting up because the infected individuals did not wear masks or are not consciously practicing social distancing within their barangays or villages.
Companies and business establishments are actually more compliant with health protocols, as they conduct temperature checks, require customers to fill up contact tracing forms, enforce the face mask and face shield policy, and constantly ask them to observe social distancing at all times.
The implementation of strict health protocols is our way of adjusting to the new normal. A general lockdown, however, is not an adjustment. It is an ineffectual option that delays the enforcement of the necessary health measures, such as expansion of our health-care capacity, inoculating majority of our population and guiding them to observe health protocols at all times, particularly with the use of proper face masks. We actually still see people wandering in the streets with cloth masks below their chin.
We should, of course, ramp up the vaccination of the population until all adult Filipinos are fully inoculated. The government can later give children anti-Covid shots to effectively curb the infection rise.
These health measures are all part of our adjustments to survive the pandemic and its impact. But to survive, we need food, water, home and basic services, which people cannot get if we continuously lock down the economy.
Adjusting to the new normal means accepting we have to live with the virus for a longer time. It starts with wearing the proper face masks, at medical-grade if possible. We should not be caught without it in the company of other people.
Businesses have actually done their part by requiring employees to have face masks on if they go to the office and by allowing hybrid work-from-home model, holding virtual meetings and enabling digital transactions. Not all industries, though, can fully switch to this model, especially the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, mining and services.
The biggest adjustment should take place in the health-care sector. We need more hospital beds and more equipment for lung-related diseases. It is time for both government and private hospitals to expand their facilities or build new ones. Investors should look at health care as a long-term investment opportunity.
We must also encourage our pharmaceutical companies to continue finding a cure for Covid-19. Vaccines are effective in reducing hospitalization rate among infected individuals. We we also need a medicine that will prevent the transmission of the virus. This is also an opportunity for technology or manufacturing firms to create a better version of existing face masks to increase the level of protection against airborne pathogens.
The same is true with ventilation products. We need technologies that will remove viruses from indoor spaces, especially in hospitals, restaurants, shops and offices. It is time to reinvent our cooling or air-conditioning systems to make them more compliant with health protocols.
I personally see opportunities in the design of homes and buildings in the new normal. The pandemic has taught us the importance of ventilation and larger spaces to avoid the transmission of the virus. Filipino homebuyers are now actually aware of this, as seen in rising demand for house-and-lot units in the provinces, away from the congested areas of Metro Manila.
The new normal is truly upon us, and it may take years before we can return to our old habit of attending social or community gatherings. What is important right now is we begin to adjust to the new normal, not by being reclusive, but by being proactive to protect our families and keep our economy afloat.
There is no room for complacency, either. The late American Baptist minister, educator and rights leader Benjamin E. Mays once famously said: “The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.”