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Premature rush

As the developed world slowly starts to reopen and relax coronavirus restrictions, a senior World Health Organization official warned countries to lift their Covid-19 restrictions slowly so as “not to lose the gains that they have made.”

Mike Ryan, head of emergencies of the UN global health body, made the comments at a briefing where the WHO once again urged countries to share Covid-19 vaccines to protect health and care workers and elderly and vulnerable people in low income countries before expanding vaccination programs to children.

Addressing the speed of countries’ plans to reopen, Ryan added that in particular countries with low Covid-19 vaccination rates, combined with the lifting of restrictions, threatened a “toxic mixture.”

He said this was a time for extreme caution, but added that each nation had to make its own decisions about what precautions to take against Covid-19 and the lifting of restrictions.

Ryan spoke as the WHO announced the “tragic milestone” of four million recorded Covid-19 fatalities on Wednesday, adding that the pandemic’s true death toll is probably much higher. The milestone was reached 18 months after the outbreak began in China in December 2019.

He also cautioned against a “premature rush” back to normality. “For a lot of the world this thing is only getting started,” Ryan said. “I’m very pleased for countries that are getting this under control. But please spare a thought for those living without vaccines.”

In the case of the Philippines where majority of the population remains unvaccinated due to the slow pace of the vaccination rollout, coupled with the government’s choice of using a vaccine with a lower efficacy, the goal of herd immunity will take much longer to achieve. For Filipinos, even more caution and patience will be required before it is safe for the economy to be fully reopened, normalcy restored and recovery expected.

As first world countries are being told to avoid rushing prematurely, disadvantaged and vulnerable countries with huge populations, like the Philippines, have to listen keenly as we deal with our own challenges wrought upon us by Covid-19 that have been compounded by in ineffective government response.*

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