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Not back to normal

“Normal: the typical state or condition, characterized by that which is considered usual or routine under normal circumstances.”

As the total number of infections and active cases in the Philippines keep rising in the past three weeks, we saw comments on social media saying many countries are coming “back to normal,” while the Philippines is not. Apparently, some people have a problem understanding the definition of “normal.”

While we may give them the benefit of the doubt as to what the pandemic conditions are in other nations, the world is far from being normal by any measure. The US, for example, is still trying to decide whether people should continue wearing masks under certain situations such as being outside. More interestingly is whether or not people who have been vaccinated should wear masks. On that question, it might be asked if vaccinated people should wear a mask to protect themselves or to protect others.

New York Times, April 1, 2021: “Can Vaccinated People Spread the Virus? We Don’t Know, Scientists Say.” Then again, “CDC: Evidence suggests fully vaccinated people do not transmit Covid-19.” “We don’t know.” “Evidence suggests.” Not completely reassuring.

There is no question that once enough people are vaccinated and we become closer to herd immunity, cases and hospitalizations will decrease dramatically. But we are far from “back to normal” economically even in those countries that have had low infection rates, are much farther along the vaccination road, and are bringing their national epidemics under control.

Thailand is a case in point. Many people pointed to Thailand as an example of what should have been done with government policies and action. Thailand has recorded more than 62,000 cases with only less than 200 deaths. The per capita numbers are very good with 880 cases per one million population and only three deaths.

However, Thailand is now experiencing a major outbreak. The country has reported an average of nearly 2,000 daily cases over the past week. Because of these numbers—which seem almost insignificant in comparison to the Philippines—one European economic think tank writes this.

Capital Economics—“To contain the spread, the government has announced the closure of schools, bars and other entertainment venues. These restrictions have led to a sharp drop in our Mobility Tracker and are likely to weigh heavily on consumer spending over the coming months. The outbreak could also cause the government to put on hold plans to reopen the tourism sector. The authorities had been hoping to welcome fully vaccinated foreign tourists to the island of Phuket [which before the crisis attracted 14 percent of (total) international visitors] without a mandatory quarantine period, starting in July.”

To speak of India and their Covid situation is improper as the situation there is a humanitarian catastrophe. There are those in the Philippines that are saying that India has better per capita death toll than the Philippines. That is a disgrace and only in support of a political narrative.

Initially, bodies are cremated within 24 hours of death. Further, The Straits Times: “Families allowed to bury dead in backyards as India’s Covid-19 surge overwhelms crematoriums.” Al Jazeera: “Non-stop cremations cast doubt on India’s counting of Covid dead. Several major cities are reporting far larger numbers of cremations and burials under coronavirus protocols than official death tolls.”

The world is a long way from normal, in part because we are all connected one way or the other. Yes, the Philippines is doing worse than some other countries. Yes, the Philippines is doing better than some other countries.

In the meantime, help your neighbor with concrete support and not merely words. For some people, that will be unusual and not normal.

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