Weary of COVID-19

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Man and woman on self-isolation quarantine during a COVID-19 pandemic. | Photo via Wikimedia Creative Commons by www.vperemen.com CC BY-SA 4.0

I am weary of COVID-19. I want to move on, move forward, build back better, bounce back stronger. I want to, and I believe the rest of the world wants to as well. Almost 8 billion people are weary of COVID-19 and dreaming of recovery. But COVID-19 is not weary of us.

That is the problem. COVID-19 is not weary of us. After almost nine months, we have grown weary, but COVID-19 has only become stronger. It is as though it has only begun. In mid-March when we began our quarantine program, you could count the number of infections and deaths from the fingers of our hands. Today, hundreds of thousands have been infected and over 8,000 have died. Today, therefore, is a worse situation than in mid-March.

It does look like the only hope for a quick ending to the COVID-19 pandemic is really the coming of vaccines. I will not debate how safe they are although how good they are having been the main criteria for their projected approval and use.

Safety is another matter that may need more time to fully ascertain. But at the rate we have become weary and the reality that COVID-19 is not tired at all, I anticipate that approvals of vaccines will be forthcoming. In fact, in some countries, vaccines may already be in use, albeit quietly.

“That is the problem. COVID-19 is not weary of us. After almost nine months, we have grown weary, but COVID-19 has only become stronger. It is as though it has only begun.”

I am weary but I am one of the lucky ones. My health is not threatened despite my underlying health concerns. My senior years has restricted my movement, but quarantine rules are starting to ease up. Family members remained healthy all the while, too. Most fortunately, they retained their jobs throughout the lockdown period and quarantine may have enabled them to free up some expenses.

Weary but lucky.

Before I can feel sorry for myself intrudes the harsh realization that tens of millions of Filipinos may be more weary and nowhere as lucky. In fact, may I say that 30% who have been tracked as experiencing hunger every so often, or quite often, have been truly unlucky. No, not just unlucky but downright miserable. Who would not be in their place? Not even food security. And if going hungry for a day is not bad enough for anyone, what about watching your children go hungry as well?

How many people are like me – weary but lucky? How many people are like the 30% – weary and miserable? And how many are in-between, weary, not so lucky but not miserable, just insecure?

“Maybe, if we still believe in prayers, we can pray for those who lead us, that they find clarity of vision, honesty in purpose, diligence in implementation. For good measure, we can also pray that they become more sensitive to the weariness of most, to the desperation of many, …”

We are all in a situation where there must be some officials who have not done their job as well as they should have. But our situation also inhibits us from going into the blame game because we know not much will come out of it. COVID-19 does not respect our weariness. It does not respect political or partisan boundaries as well. All we can do is to be enduring in our patience and, if possible, to entertain some hope that things will improve before we break.

Maybe, if we still believe in prayers, we can pray for those who lead us, that they find clarity of vision, honesty in purpose, diligence in implementation. For good measure, we can also pray that they become more sensitive to the weariness of most, to the desperation of many, and adjust their public messaging and behavior to be inspiring and not exasperating.

The road to recovery is being intensely discussed in board rooms and workplaces. It should. Only hope can counter resignation or desperation. If leadership in government is not enough to assuage our fears, we can still look to leadership in the corporate world. There is no sector that is more hinged on hope than business. We must watch them closely because their focus on recovery is unparalleled.

Aside from business leaders who are determined to recover and lend us their foresight and optimism, we can look closer to home. There are in our midst people in our own homes or communities who are not less determined than business leaders. The role models within our sight and reach are our primary sources of inspiration. Their positive attitude and progressive behavior show us how we ourselves can become our first messiah.

There are many among us who truly can take care of ourselves even in the darkest of moments. Our sense of community can be translated to actual roles we take on to ensure our protection and our well-being. We simply abdicated this crucial role as responsible citizens and chose the easy way out – which is to expect our officials to do things for us. And they end up doing so as we end up just being told what to do.

We understand that both the national and local governments are scraping the bottom of the treasure chest, so to speak. We are told from all kinds of media that additional funds are being generated, additional loans being secured. That is reassuring. How well or cleanly these funds will be spent is a question that we can tackle later if we still have the energy to do so. After all the accounting, hundreds of billions will ultimately draw our attention as we all must pay for everything.

“There are many among us who truly can take care of ourselves even in the darkest of moments. Our sense of community can be translated to actual roles we take on to ensure our protection and our well-being. We simply abdicated this crucial role as responsible citizens and chose the easy way out – which is to expect our officials to do things for us.”

Meanwhile, I will go back to a necessary albeit inconvenient truth. I will again have to point to the hungry. Not only because they are already almost a third of our population but will be players in the recovery game as well. The country cannot pursue progress with over 30 million hungry people weighing down any momentum of recovery. Worse, over 30 million hungry Filipinos create a dangerous base for our social and political stability.

Who, then, can help? Government is saying that it is doing everything it can. Who else beyond government then? Yes, business can help since business has possession of wealth. But we, too, are part of business, as employees, as consumers. That means it is you and me, it is we who must help.

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