It might be obvious, but I write my columns days before they are published. They appear every two weeks, so that means roughly a week and a half trying to put things together in my head, followed by one hour of cramming it all before sending it off to my editor on the Friday before publication.
I'd like to say I submit that close to deadline so that what I'm writing remains timely, unless I made extra sure what I wrote about is evergreen. (That doesn't always happen.)
Yesterday my latest column was published, and once again, I find myself writing about something just days before it hits the headlines.
I was talking, in part, about the Delta variant, that strain of COVID-19 that has mutated just enough to be more transmissible. I had CNA on as I was putting on the finishing touches to my column last Friday. "Southeast Asia is now the hotspot for the Delta variant," the newsreader said, before going in depth about how some of our neighboring countries have brought back restrictions to stem the spread of the disease once again. (There was also a slight brag about how Singapore leads the region in percentage of its population vaccinated. Setting aside logistical efficiencies, they really have a much smaller base to jab. But anyway.) I remember thinking - and I eventually wrote this down - that, considering the Philippines hasn't been all that great when it comes to reporting the number of new cases, what with delayed transmission of data and slower sequencing of genomes, are we sure we don't have the Delta variant raging in our own borders?
That very afternoon, the Department of Health reported the first locally-transmitted Delta cases.
The timing of my column, once again.
I also wrote about how the government, for all its faults - and heaven knows there have been so many of them when it comes to this pandemic - is in an unenviable position. Thanks to its shortsightedness, its many wrong decisions and its lack of capacity to properly respond to COVID-19, it finds itself stuck between controlling the spread of disease and reviving an economy that is in continual freefall. I know, that sounds sympathetic considering how it's cool these days to just point at the government and say "bad!" but we really were ill-prepared, so all we have to do is be in this continuous downward cycle until the end of our lives, I guess.
Of course, I'm not letting the government off the hook. It's unforgivable how, sixteen months in, they haven't really invested in these things. All that's been done, essentially, is pass the responsibility to the people and hope nothing bad happens. "This is the new normal. Get used to it." Sure, the vaccine rollout is ticking along nicely considering the circumstances, but you just know it could be much better - and I don't mean "we shouldn't have gotten those Chinese vaccines". I'm thinking of easy-to-understand tracing protocols, of better reporting of case numbers, of increased capacity for serious cases and better support for mild ones, of greater support for health workers who continue to be overstretched... but then, I don't like repeating myself. I don't have a choice, but it doesn't mean I don't have to like it.
That said, nobody really has gotten it right. We looked to Taiwan and New Zealand for early examples of controlling the pandemic (and managed to shoehorn the just-as-hyperpartisan-as-the-others #LetLeniLead because, well, they're led by women, so why can't we?) but their successes didn't hold for so long. Not that what they did were ultimately failures; it's just that nobody really has an airtight approach. Australia's still seeing their lockdowns get extended. The United Kingdom is being questioned about the wisdom of "freedom day" just as the Delta variant becomes the dominant strain there. The United States may have gotten its act together, but vaccination numbers are stalling and cases are rising. Heck, it's funny seeing the conversation around Singapore's new clusters going towards "why do we even have KTV bars in the first place?"
All I'm saying in my usual convoluted manner is this: we can do much more, but really, we can only do so much, since this pandemic is one step ahead of most of us. But then, we really should be doing more. We never really got out of lockdown. The government may tweak it so often to allow a bit more here and there, but it's like being told everything is fine now when the eye of the storm is really just passing. We were at Bonifacio High Street over the weekend and I've never felt so scared for my life - and I'm fully vaccinated. We've been reduced to automatons who can only live (and, some would say preferably, hustle) to survive. And now we're surely on the verge of yet another spike in cases - not a new wave, because we never really left four-digit territory when it comes to new daily cases - and everything we've seen in the recent, but long-dragged-out, past will happen all over again. Keep everyone stuck at home, blame everyone for screwing it up, and so on.
Just as surely, I'll find myself writing the same column, only differently, like I have these past few months. Again, I don't like repeating myself. I don't have a choice, but it doesn't mean I don't have to like it. I don't like it. Not at all.