COVID and Odette

COVID and Odette

Coronavirus cases are down, and it’s hard to think of physical distancing when one has been rendered homeless and is jostling for dole-outs of the family’s meal for the day. Aid workers and local government officials, however, must exert effort to promote compliance with COVID-19 health safety protocols as they undertake relief operations in the areas devastated by Super Typhoon Odette.

Images from the typhoon-hit areas show people not only forgetting physical distancing as they wait for relief packs but also no longer wearing face masks. Health professionals are worried, especially as the country is monitoring the possible community transmission of the Omicron variant, which is fueling a fresh wave of COVID cases in Europe affecting even the fully vaccinated.

Health experts have said the lifting of masking mandates has aggravated the high transmissibility of Omicron in several countries. Masking can still be observed even in crowded evacuation centers and areas without electricity, safe water, telecommunication service and basic supplies. The distribution of relief goods and other forms of aid can be orderly, with distancing promoted through the use of ropes and other physical dividers or visual cues.

After nearly two years, people understand the threat posed by COVID-19, and would want to protect themselves and their loved ones from infection and possible death. Fear of COVID, however, can be relegated to the back seat by more immediate concerns caused by Odette, including the lack of clean water, food and shelter.

Desperate people will need a gentle reminder about the continuing need to protect themselves from COVID. No one will want to survive the super typhoon only to see the crisis replaced by a resurgence of the coronavirus in their communities.