By Jay Ledesma

2021: From worst to good

December 21, 2021, 12:28 am

IN just a few more days, we draw the curtain for 2021.  Coming from a year that gave us the covid-19 pandemic outbreak and brought almost everyone in a downward spiral, we started 2021 still with an ounce of pessimism.  As much as we wanted to face it more positively, we were still carrying much of the pandemic baggage. 

While 2020 was a straight downward spiral, it was a roller coaster ride this 2021. The first few months were down just like in 2020. Then we were up to when we saw a ray of hope with the arrival of the first batch of vaccines. We were down again when the new covid variants came out. But with more people getting vaccinated, resulting to fewer new cases, our economy started perking up. However, we face again another potential threat of a more contagious variant, Omicron, which as of the time of this writing, has already been detected locally.  But we learned our lessons from the Delta variant.

The first few months of 2021 were nothing different from 2020. In fact, for many, the first half of the year was even worst as the virus was hitting close to home. The infected were just not mere numbers but with faces and names. We were losing family members, relatives, and friends to the virus. I personally dread to check my FB news feedback then as posts from friends mourning the loss of a loved one came one after the other. Sadly, the vaccines came too late for them. 

Still, there is no doubt that the biggest headline of 2021 is the availability of anti-covid vaccines. All nations raced to secure their supply of vaccines. The richer countries got their hands on the vaccines first while for 3rd world countries like the Philippines, we had to patiently wait for our turn. The first batch of the vaccines, mostly donations from China and WHO, came to us sometime in March. Vaccination was done by priority group (from groups A to C) as vaccine supplies came in a trickle at the start. But as months progressed, supply improved. Regardless of the source and the brand, we are just thankful that we now have a steady supply of vaccines. As of the latest count, around 40.69M Filipinos (or 36.9% of the population) have been fully vaccinated while another 54.5M (or 49.5 of the Filipinos) have been partially vaccinated. What’s good about this, is that these numbers now include children above 12 years old. The number significantly increased due to the 3-day national vaccination drive of the government which churned a total of 7.6M vaccinated Filipinos. A 2nd run of the 3-day nationwide vaccination drive was held Dec 15-17 which aimed to inoculate another 7M Filipinos.

With more people getting fully vaccinated, we saw a steady decline in our new cases while most of those being infected showed mild symptoms. This prevents death and hospitalization, removing pressure on our health systems, as well. A welcome respite for our health workers. We hope that with the roll-out of the booster shots, we can better protect ourselves even from new variants that may still come out. Indeed, vaccination is the key!

However, the early part of the vaccination program was threatened by the discovery and arrival to the Philippines by the new covid Delta variant which was found to be highly transmissible and more dominant.  we are racing to have more vaccine supplies and have more people vaccinated, the Delta variant was racing to get more people infected.  And it was winning the race for a while. We saw the daily new cases spiked to about 26K in September. Once again, hospitals were full and deaths increased anew.  Lockdowns and quarantines were done. Economic activities slowed down again.  

But vaccinations continued even at a faster rate. Somehow, the scare of the Delta variant pushed more people to get vaccinated and observe health protocols. That is two months' time, we were able to contain the spread of the Delta variant which is now down to hundreds/day only.       

The steady decline in the new covid cases prompted the government to rethink its quarantine and lockdown protocols. From ECQ or MECQ or GCQ, the government rolled out the 5-tier alert level system sometime in September to balance health amid the covid pandemic and our badly-hit economy. It is based on the covid transmission rate and healthcare utilization in the area. Alert Level 1 is the most relaxed while Alert Level 5 is the strictest and is compared to the Enhanced Community Quarantine. It was approved for national rollout but is to be done in 4 phases. For now, only Alert Level 2 has been given to any city.  Under Alert Level 2, movements are less restricted, senior citizens and children are allowed to go out, more businesses are allowed to operate and with higher capacity, and face-to-face classes have resumed in some schools. And finally, the lifting of the mandatory use of face shields (we were the only country who required this).   

With most of the major cities are now under Alert Level 2, we see perkier economic activities around us. Supermarkets and malls are full again with people shopping and eating out.  Traffic jams are in sight again in major thoroughfares. Travel bugs are on the road (or sky) to their much-awaited vacation destination. Hotel occupancy rates are increasing and airlines are all out with their seat sale promos again.  Salons, spas, and derm clinics are teeming with appointments. Of course, the economic hype is boosted by the fact that it’s the Filipinos’ most favorite time of the year: the Christmas Season. When Filipinos are extra generous and big spenders. With these positive economic activities, investment analysts are optimistic that our local stock market can still breach a new threshold by the end of the year.           

Amidst the twists and turns and the dramas that go with it, the filing of the candidacy by our May 2022 election hopefuls was met with enthusiasm and optimism by most Filipinos. Regardless of our political party and color, we always look forward to this important first step of the national election, as this presents to us the roster of candidates to choose from come May 9, 2022. Fortunately or unfortunately, we can only select from among those on the menu. Already, they are doing the rounds both virtually and face-to-face and making those promises again. We can just hope and pray that each one of them has the best interest of our country and our countrymen in their hearts and mind. And that we will be guided when we cast our votes next year. 

With the looming threat of an Omicron variant outbreak, we are again made to be more cautious and vigilant. But we certainly cannot afford to go back to those ECQs or Alert Level 5. Initial studies in South Africa, where it originated, showed that while this variant is more transmissible, it causes less severe infection. There are also findings that vaccines, such as Pfizer works against the virus. Meaning, while the inoculated can still be infected, symptoms will be mild or can even be asymptomatic. So the message is clear… get vaccinated. And observe the proper health protocol. We may not be able to stop the covid-19 virus and its variants but we can learn and manage to live with it. The virus has mutated itself to exist and survive… so must we! 

We have seen and experienced the worst of this pandemic in 2020 and the first half of 2021. We started managing it this year, through vaccines and strict observance of health protocols and have seen and experienced the good things it brought us. As we end 2021 and welcome 2022, let’s not only hope but work together towards a better, safer, and healthier year!    

Happy Holidays!


About the Columnist

Image of Jay Ledesma

Ms. Jay Ledesma writes about local tourism and business bits that delve on investments and insurance.