Cabaero: Optimistic yet cautious

The end has come. That is the declaration of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as a global health emergency has finally been declared over.

But, as World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday, May 5, 2023, the end of Covid-19 as a global health emergency does not mean Covid-19 is over as a global health threat.

There lies the danger of misinterpretation and the reason why both optimism and caution mark reactions to the latest WHO declaration.

I am among those hopeful that the end of the global health emergency status imposed by the WHO would mean the public is prepared to live with the virus. Yet I approach the news with caution as the Philippines and other developing nations do not have the same safeguards and degrees of implementation as those in the so-called global north.

Tedros said, “It is therefore with great hope that I declare Covid-19 over as a global health emergency.” He then went on to warn, “This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it’s still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases and deaths.”

“The worst thing any country could do now is to use this news as a reason to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about. What this news means is that it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing Covid-19 alongside other infectious diseases,” Tedros said.

The WHO declaration came as a surprise to me because a family member and two friends just recently recovered from Covid-19. What came as no surprise was the reaction of some people who said Covid-19 from the start was a hoax and a design by big pharmaceutical companies in connivance with health regulators.

Covid-19 was and continues to be real. I have a brother who died not of Covid but of its consequences. It was at the time of strict lockdowns in October 2020 and my brother could have easily consulted a doctor about his headaches but it was difficult to move from the province to the city of Iloilo and he thought it probably was just his eyesight. Days later, he collapsed. He had a stroke and, after less than 24 hours, he died.

I have other relatives, friends and neighbors who succumbed to Covid-19 and many more who needed hospitalization. I had a health scare myself in July 2020 when I had to be hospitalized and, after that, had to suffer long-Covid symptoms.

Let us approach the lifting of the health emergency status with optimism that we have learned the lessons on how to live with the virus and with caution so as to always protect ourselves for our sake and for our loved ones, colleagues and the strangers we encounter.