Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Malilong: Learning from the others

The Other Side

SEYCHELLES is a country comprising more than a hundred small islands in the Indian Ocean. It has recorded a total of 6,373 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center dashboard. That’s very negligible when compared to the Philippines’ tally of 1,087,885 during the same period.

Lately, the African nation has been averaging 100 new infections per day. That is almost the same daily number recorded in the entire island of Cebu alone during the last few days. To put it in better perspective, the Philippines’ new infections numbered as high as 15,000 on certain days last month.

Yet, while the Philippine situation earned only glancing attention from the world even during its worst days, they are now taking a close and worried look at what is happening in Seychelles.

Disproportionate? No. Seychelles has a population of only less than 100,000 compared to our more than 110 million. If that country’s surge had happened in the Philippine setting, we would have averaged more than 110,000 cases per day. On a per capita basis, the Washington Post reported, the tiny nation’s outbreak is worse than the raging surge in India.

What baffles world health officials is that 60 percent of the nation’s population are fully vaccinated, earning it the distinction of being the “most vaccinated nation on Earth.” This is particularly concerning to us considering that the vaccines that they used — AstraZeneca and Sinopharm — are the same ones that are or could most probably be administered to us.

Did the surge occur because the vaccines were ineffective? Or is it because of the relaxation in border controls as Seychelles reopened its doors to visitors who were not required to quarantine upon arrival and did not have to be vaccinated? These are what the world wants to know.

We also should. We experienced a surge in February and March and have not turned the corner yet. And while Seychelles had fully vaccinated about 60,000 of its 100,000 population, our vaccination program has not even scratched the surface. How many have so far received at least one dose of AstraZeneca or Sinovac out of the more than 110 million Filipinos?

We have not even started immunizing the general population yet because of the scarcity of vaccines. The health workers and senior citizens have been prioritized and the number of those who got jabbed in the arms couldn’t have reached two million yet since the vaccines that have so far arrived in the country are below that quantity.

And yet here we are, declaring that we are ready to accept visitors and resisting efforts to minimize the risk to the public health that accompanies their arrival. Did we spend more than a year hiding in our homes to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus only to see non-residents being allowed to roam freely after being perfunctorily tested and quarantined?

Seychelles is not the only country that experienced a spike in coronavirus infections after prematurely relaxing restrictions. Japan went through the same agony and so did Thailand, to name only a few. It will be a tragedy to refuse to learn from their experience.


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