Death in the time of COVID

Death in the time of COVID

Adding to the misery inflicted by the COVID pandemic, including the inability to visit the dearly departed on the special days dedicated to them, a powerful typhoon is wreaking havoc in the Philippines this weekend.

Typhoon Rolly comes closely on the heels of Storm Quinta, which left over 20 people dead in its wake. Rolly is barreling across the country along nearly the same path as Quinta, inflicting further damage on already ruined property, crops and infrastructure. Affected communities can only pray that the casualty count from Rolly will be low if not zero.

In this year of COVID, so many lives have already been lost, and there is no end in sight as coronavirus infections surge again in Europe and the United States. A vaccine for mass distribution is still months away, and while at least one drug has been approved for treatment, there is still no cure for coronavirus disease 2019.

With cemeteries closed for All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day, people can only pray at home for the nearly 7,200 who have died of COVID in this country. As of last Friday, 1.18 million people around the world had succumbed to coronavirus disease 2019. On the same day, the world also registered 500,000 fresh COVID cases – the largest in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

Death due to COVID is particularly devastating; those left behind are given no opportunity to say their final goodbyes to the dying or mourn properly. Apart from claiming lives and leaving some patients with long-term debilitation such as loss of taste and smell and constant shortness of breath, COVID has also destroyed livelihoods and economies.

The closure of cemeteries for Undas, for example, certainly prevents virus transmission. But it also meant deep losses for the flower industry; the days dedicated to the dead used to be its most profitable period. Sales of candles are also down. The Undas holiday used to be a peak travel season; instead many bus companies are closed during the period for lack of passengers.

Remembrance of the departed can still be done at home in these special days. The nation can still pray for the dead – and hope the virus will claim fewer lives in the days ahead.