With Metro Manila transitioning to the General Community Quarantine, many seem to think that the pandemic has already passed. The ease in restriction does not mean you should go back to normal, because the COVID-19 cases are still rising. Our front liners did not risk their lives for three months just for you to leave the house again whenever you want to.
I’ve always had respect for doctors and people who work in the field of medicine. This was mainly brought in me by the fact that both my parents are doctors who I look up to. Whenever I would get sick, my parents would know what’s wrong or knew someone who would know what the problem was. When the COVID-19 pandemic started early this year, I had a sense of hope that my parents and the people they worked with at the hospital would treat people who would get infected and hopefully be able to slow down the spread of the virus. Sadly, we are nowhere near stopping or even slowing down the virus in the Philippines. Mainly driven by fear and paranoia, there is an increase in people who discriminate against front liners, specifically medical workers. It breaks my heart to see some people have an aversion to healthcare workers. So much for being hailed as modern-day heroes.
When the lockdown started in early March, both my parents got a fever, cough, and sore throat, my mother first, then my father. Luckily, they both had mild symptoms and recovered. Unfortunately, they were not qualified to be tested as dictated by the testing algorithm at that time as they presented with mild symptoms and had no known exposure. In the beginning, I would hear news from my parents about how the hospital they worked in had a rush of patients that needed to be treated. This rush overwhelmed the ICU and specialty care units designed for highly contagious diseases. My parents were informed of co-workers who got sick and sadly, some doctors dying which made me scared since both my parents are in their late 50s making them even more susceptible to the virus.
Despite all this, my parents still did their duty as best as they could. They would be on the phone constantly talking to relatives, friends, or patients asking about the situation or giving medical advice to those who asked for it. My parents had to buy proper tools and equipment such as face shields, scrub suits, a UV light, and even an air purifier to make sure their clinic was safe for their patients who needed urgent care. My mom was even part of a group of volunteers for the hospital who would inform patients of their COVID-19 test results done in the hospital.
Seeing them working on the front lines is not easy. It’s a very stressful situation that requires the concentrated effort of the government and the private sector in order to stem the tide and slow the virus down. But whenever I would watch the news, it seems that people were doing the exact opposite. Early on, when news broke that politicians, their families, and staff were given priority in testing despite being asymptomatic, I got angry knowing doctors and healthcare workers struggled to be tested themselves. Whenever I would see stories of nurses in Metro Manila and in the provinces be discriminated against, denied public transportation, not allowed into their dorms, or worse, attacked and harassed on the street by people who think they are infectious, I get so sad because these are the people whose job it is to take care of the sick. People spreading fake news doesn’t help the situation as well.
I thought things couldn’t get any worse, but then the anti-lockdown protests started happening in the US. I remember seeing this photo on Twitter that went viral of a nurse standing in front of a car and the driver yelling at the nurse and it made me think that healthcare workers are some of the most underappreciated people in the world. The fact that some people think that being required to wear a mask in public is the same as slavery, literally worms for brains. Seeing people in the US and elsewhere complain about safety procedures such as wearing a mask, standing 6 feet apart, or having decreased seating for social distancing, it makes me dumbfounded by their general lack of regard for public health, safety, and medical workers who work tirelessly to help those who have been infected.
Despite what some say, doctors don’t just talk and scribble on their clipboards–they are doing their jobs and helping the people who need it most. I witness this firsthand with my parents who are emailing, or video calling their patients, or go to the hospital to treat the sick. If you personally know a healthcare worker or someone who works at the front lines, support them by thanking them for their work. Even better, speak up for them and hold accountable elected officials and people in power whose job it is to help front liners and the general public.
If you see something not right being done, speak up and call it out. Don’t spread fake news that goes against common sense and medical advice. Most importantly, don’t treat medical workers like a pariah. Most of us are scared or unsure of the future, but that doesn’t give us the right to treat healthcare workers with blatant disrespect. I, and so many people have so much respect and admiration for the hard work front liners do. They risk their lives every day and they absolutely do not deserve the mistreatment and disrespect they receive from certain people. In times like these, we shouldn’t shun healthcare workers but support them because they absolutely need it. At the end of the day, doing things like wearing a mask when going out, maintaining physical distancing, and frequent hand washing already helps front liners as it decreases the chance to get sick and spread the virus.
The fight is far from over. Meaning, now is not the time to be complacent and turn our backs on the people whose job is to slow and stop the pandemic. By trying to save our lives, they are risking their own, the very least we can do is to stand up for them when others don’t, because they are human beings, too.