During the early stage of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic last year, I had a number of friends and acquaintances who succumbed to the virus. At that time, our doctors and health system were ill-prepared to control the pandemic given scant knowledge of the virus’ mechanism, its transmissibility and the extent of its impact on internal organs. Consequently, there was confusion on the kind of medications or medical regimen that would effectively counter the debilitating effects of the virus, resulting in the deaths of many patients. Even the US president then, who dismissed the threat of Covid-19, was prescribing a drug that had been proven ineffective and possibly even more damaging than alleviating.
When a vaccine was developed toward the end of 2020, the world breathed a sigh of relief. But by that time, millions of human lives had already been lost in various countries of the world. However, the tragic circumstances of their passing were drowned by global concern and fear of the further spread of the virus, which could trigger more deaths around the world.
Pause at 500,000 deaths
In the United States, and right after the successful installation of Joe Biden as US president, a day of remembering for the victims of Covid-19 was held when the country’s death toll reached 500,000. Stories of suffering, tragedy, excruciating pain, unfathomable loss, mental anguish, among others, were shared by family members and friends of those who lost their loved ones to Covid-19. There were children unable to see their parents die and get buried to avoid being infected by the easily transmittable virus. Some with promising careers and holding positions of influence, fame and power also had their lives snuffed prematurely by the virus. And there were those whose relationship with their loved ones was broken by a loss of a beloved member of a family.
They say that dying is not the tragedy, for every one dies sooner or later. The tragedy is dying alone, with none of your loved ones there to tell that you are loved and will be missed. Unfortunately, this is precisely the experience that Covid-19 imposed on its victims.
We are now experiencing a third wave (the first was in early 2020 and the second around the third quarter of the same year) of the pandemic in the country. The number of cases per day and fatalities has surpassed figures during the second wave. Medical experts attribute this third wave to the new variants of the virus, more infectious than the original, that entered the country. It is projected that we might breach the 800,000 mark of Covid-19 patients before mid-April, with deaths reaching more than 14,000.
The surge in Covid-19 cases brought its tragic impact closer to our family. My son’s classmate, fraternity brod, and close friend at the Ateneo School of Law, died a few days ago due to Covid-19. His dad also succumbed to the virus earlier this month, and so did his mom a few days after his classmate died. His mom never knew that he already succumbed to Covid-19 as she herself was in the intensive care unit fighting for her life, a fight which she sadly lost.
A number of my medical doctor son’s colleagues also did not make it. They died at the peak of their career and while trying to save the lives of other people.
Around our residence in Pasig City, the number of cases is worryingly on the rise. While the subdivision is not cramped and is in fact well-planned, its residents fear venturing outside to take their daily exercises as the number of deaths due to the virus has also risen. This despite the fact that we live a mere 10 minutes away from The Medical City (TMC) hospital.
TMC is teeming with Covid-19 patients and right now, its emergency unit has difficulty coping with the flood of possible patients. It is ironic that even if one has the money to pay for the hospital bill, a patient can still be turned away as our health care facilities are now overburdened.
Covid-19 has proven to be humanity’s modern-day cross. The sufferings it has brought to family, friends and loved ones are immense. The fear and anxiety that it has generated among people of different races are immeasurable. The division it has sown among people (i.e., pro versus antivaccine, rich countries prioritizing their vaccine requirements against sharing them with poorer countries, greed among public officials looking for windfall gains from the vaccine purchase while most people are just trying to survive, etc.) has deepened the chasm among peoples and nations.
But just like the cross carried by our Lord more than 2,000 years ago, this one will also be temporary. While Covid-19 brought the worse out of human beings, it also resulted in the greater realization of the value of family and our community if we are to survive this pandemic physically and mentally. There is now greater awareness that a symbiotic interaction and interdependence between human beings and various species of nature need to be nurtured as a coping mechanism during this pandemic and the future ones. There is now higher recognition of the need to respect the existence of the simplest organism on earth if we are to harness them for the benefit of mankind instead of being the cause of its destruction.
Just like previous pandemics that scourged mankind, Covid-19 will pass. And just like the cross that proved an immense burden while being carried by our Lord, it will transform into a source of hope and even salvation if we learn our lessons in responding to the pandemic. And despite the tragedies wrought by Covid-19, there is much hope that we will survive this.
For as the Lord assured us, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew, Chapter 11, verses 28-30).
Happy Easter to all!