Never let complacency set in

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    ON the tenth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, an official of the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned the public that just because one has tested negative for the coronavirus 2019, it does not mean that he or she already has a passport to play and move around in an environment just like the pre-COVID-19 era.

    The reality is that if someone underwent the test and the result was negative, whether through the “gold standard” RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test or antigen test, it only meant that the lucky individual is in the pink of health on that particular day.

    This was the admonition to the public of Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, to further his agency’s goal of continued dissemination to the people of correct and reliable information on the pandemic.

    ‘There are still clusters of community outbreaks in the country and we would not want to see these incidents attain epidemic proportions again.’

    In a briefing at the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, Ryan said: “The RT-PCR test tells you with certainty whether you have an active infection. It tells you nothing about what your status will be tonight, tomorrow, or the next day. To base your activities or behavior on that is frankly a dangerous thing to do.”

    Since our national and local officials have perhaps relapsed into “reminder fatigue,” it is timely for the WHO official to be saying these things. There is nothing more convincing than an international expert reiterating the fundamental facts about COVID-19 as an effective way to warn the people lest they unnecessarily lower their guard. Mike Ryan said, “Testing for the virus has a very specific purpose. It’s there to pick up people who are sick or people who have the disease in order to get care and identify contacts.”

    If it is any consolation to many of us, there is indeed a downturn in the number of new infections as the Department of Health has reported. This upside does not justify, however, any easing or lifting of the community quarantine policy in Metro Manila, at least not until November 30. In fact, the mayors of the National Capital Region have suggested to President Duterte that the general community quarantine be maintained up to the end of the year.

    There are still clusters of community outbreaks in the country and we would not want to see these incidents attain epidemic proportions again. For our own survival, every one must toe the line our health, military and police authorities have drawn.