As the economy is gradually reopened and more people get their livelihoods back, increased human contact is inevitable. And so, it seems, is the increased transmission of pathogens.
This week was marked by two worrisome developments in the global battle against the coronavirus disease 2019. One was the cautious acknowledgment by the World Health Organization that there is “emerging evidence” of airborne COVID-19 transmission, particularly in enclosed spaces, as 239 scientists from 32 countries are insisting. The WHO has stressed that there is still no definitive study on this, but it deserves attention.
Another development is the announcement of the Department of Health that the current spike in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines is now due to community transmission. This complicates contact tracing and isolation of COVID patients, weak to begin with in this country.
It now falls on the people themselves to prevent the crisis from worsening and again shutting down the economy. The return of mass transportation, which is indispensable in the revival of more economic activities, is seen as one of the factors driving community transmission. The high number of employees testing positive for COVID-19 in the Metro Rail Transit 3 illustrates the infection risk posed by mass transportation.
Health safety protocols in public places will have to be fine-tuned to deal with community transmission. Private companies, seeing the disruption to their operations that can be caused by even one infected employee, should also tighten safety rules, and maintain where possible the work-from-home arrangements that were implemented during the enhanced community quarantine.
As health experts around the world are warning, the easing of restrictions does not mean the coronavirus has been beaten. In fact, as the experts can’t stress enough, the pandemic is entering a more dangerous phase, as economic reopening provides more opportunities for virus transmission.
Each person is a frontliner in this war against an unseen, treacherous and deadly enemy. The precautionary measures aren’t intolerable: wear a mask in public, maintain a distance of at least three feet – a little over arm’s length – from others, and observe hygienic practices such as regular handwashing and keeping surroundings clean.
The past four months have shown that economic health suffers when public health is under threat. Even when quarantine enforcers aren’t looking, everyone must continue observing health safety protocols. Your health, life and livelihood depend on it.