COVID-19 is not going away, even with a vaccine

News of successful COVID-19 vaccine trials came one after another, and with the governments around the world now releasing their stamps of approval, it seems we have finally turned a corner in this global pandemic.

I can’t help but wonder if this is why nearly all the shopping malls are attracting huge crowds these days. Could the optimism from these developments embolden the Filipinos to leave their homes and resume their pre-pandemic lives?

I was initially blaming the 12.12 sale but the truth is even before this red-letter date, social media chat groups were reporting shoppers failing to observe physical distancing. When you see the number of people packed in confined spaces, I can understand why social distancing is not followed. But aren’t we still under community quarantine with crowd control protocols to ensure physical distancing is always possible?

If you are one of those eager to line up for the vaccine as soon as it reaches Philippine shores, please consider what medical experts are also saying.

The Washington Post (WP) spoke to experts in epidemiology, disaster planning and vaccine development and they all say that even after vaccines are deployed, COVID-19 will likely remain for decades to come. “Experts call such diseases endemic — stubbornly resisting efforts to stamp them out. Think measles, HIV, chickenpox,” says the WP report featured in its dedicated section for Coronavirus coverage.

Things are not going to get better overnight, but in the long haul, the situation should improve. This will need several things to happen such as more people getting infected, people’s bodies adapting to the virus, and immunity to COVID-19 spreading by natural means and medical intervention.

Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, who was interviewed in the same WP report raised a key question that should all be top of our mind: “This virus is here to stay. The question is, how do we live with it safely?”

Here are 10 things you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones living with you, and to arrest the spread of the virus (and still squeeze in some holiday shopping and pre-COVID 19 life activities):

#1 Wear a mask. 

Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Breathing is constricted. And if you have to wear it all day at work, you can feel suffocated. But I recommend reading stories of patients who were infected with COVID-19, or watching YouTube videos of the same topic and that should make you realize wearing a mask is a small price to pay to keep breathing.

#2 Add on a face shield.

Wearing a face shield on top of a face mask is just like the two-factor authentication now required by banks if you want to access your account. You need your log-in password plus a one-time PIN. It can be a hassle but it keeps your money safe from fraudsters.

Face masks can get dislodged or maybe you want a few seconds break from wearing it. The face shield can keep you safe if these happen. And even if they don’t, covering your eyes and mouth – two confirmed entry points for the virus – is always the safest for you.

#3 Avoid contact as much as you can.

Crossing the street? Avoid pressing the crosswalk button and just wait for the traffic signal to change. Entering stores? Wait for the guard to open the doors or pick entry points with automated doors. Going down the escalator? Try to keep your balance without holding on to the rails. 

#4 No to confined spaces.

Good air circulation will help ensure you don’t get infected and this is something lacking in confined spaces. If you are just going up one to two to three floors, better to take the stairs than be stuck inside an elevator box. Waiting for an appointment and the lobby area is small? Offer to wait outside and have them call you when they are ready for you.

#5 Always carry sanitizers.

A small spray bottle of sanitizer or alcohol can help you keep your sanity if you do end up in contact with a public door handle, use a public bathroom, or must ride an elevator to go up 15 floors. ATM machines are another red flag but we all need cash so be ready to spray away. Or you can always ask the bank personnel to sanitize for you before use.

#6 Keep it under 30 minutes.

With so few interactions with family and friends, when we do see them, we get so excited that time flies by. But the medical recommendation is to limit physical meetings to 30 minutes or less. This holds true for work meetings, and personal errands as well. Anything that requires you to stay longer than this is a warning sign that you are endangering yourself, and everyone around you.

#7 Keep your 1-meter distance, or more if you can.

Some places have distancing guidelines that are helpful to know where you should stay and where the others around you should stand. But not all areas have the same floor stickers or markings so try to measure at home what your 1 meter is like and remember it visually. It’s usually more than an arm’s length so when you can see someone crossing that line you know you have to step back.

#8 Discover digital payments.

If you haven’t discovered it yet, it’s time to switch to digital banking and digital payments. Paper bills and coins can cause the virus to spread faster as these change hands many times in a day. Choose a digital partner based on your bank of account so the onboarding will be easier for you. Always check the fees – I’ve been using digital banking for some time now and have avoided paying cash in and cash out fees. The trick is to choose the right channels to cash in and cash in (some outlets are free, and some are not) and to do it in the right amounts.

#9 Shop online.

12.12 sales proved to me again that shopping online can be a smarter move for your wallet. For the same brand, I learned that their physical stores did not offer the sales available in their online shop – and that’s a 20% discount! Many offer free shipping too so you save on transportation, plus the cost of your disposable face mask by staying home and letting your fingers do the buying.

#10 Organize virtual get-togethers.

Nine out of 10, people say they leave their homes because they need to see other people and mingle with humanity. Why not try virtual get-togethers for now? Chances are you are not the only one missing your family and friends and your invitation will be welcomed. 

The WP report pointed out that “living long-term with the virus also means addressing the mental health effects.” Depression and anxiety are problems facing not only medical front liners, but also teachers, students, and all sectors badly hit by the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown. “The psychological recovery is going to be as important as economic and logistical parts of this.”

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.

Aneth Ng Lim, Paying It Forward, featured blog, blogroll, vaccines, holiday shopping, holiday dining, smart shopping tips, shopping in time of COVID-19

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