A man and his son were walking with their donkey to the market. A passerby said that they were being foolish for not making use of the donkey. The man put the boy on the donkey. Soon, another group judged the boy as a lazy youngster for letting his father walk. The father got on only for another group criticising the man for letting his son trudge along while he enjoys the ride. They both got on the donkey and met with jeers for overloading the poor donkey.

The story goes on with the man and his son finally carrying the donkey. This fable that many of us grew up listening to is what is happening today amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the management and the expectations of the people. 

There was  pressure on the government and those managing the pandemic for more relaxation. With two more deaths reported yesterday and rising community cases, many are saying that the government had given into public pressure without getting control over the virus. Either way, those managing the pandemic are being criticised. In the meantime, we have become the passerby commenting on the man, his son and the donkey. 

There will be more cases as we make citizens more responsible in deciding the fate of future lockdowns and the management of the Omicron variant. Even as we lift the restrictions, the number of cases are rising with the virus now reported in health facilities infecting doctors, nurses and other health providers.  The government has decided to not trace, test or pick people testing positive unless they are seriously ill. What happens in the hospitals – hospitalisation rate – will be the concern for the government to decide on lockdown to control the spread.

We are already transiting to the next phase. We can expect more cases and still feel free unless the health system is overwhelmed.  If we can achieve herd immunity through both infection and vaccination, we are in a better position to live with the virus.

However, the deaths yesterday – of a baby and an elderly is a cruel reminder that those vulnerable are still at risk even if many are convinced that Omicron is just another flu. A consolation is that there are more deaths reported every day from other causes like vehicle accidents and lifestyle diseases. Given the uncertainties around the SAS-CoV-2 virus, there is no surety that we will achieve immunity against the fast-mutating virus. 

A lot has been spent in containing the virus and protecting lives over the last two years. Moving into the next phase without lockdowns doesn’t ensure that we are safe. We have endured long lockdowns and lived with the consequences. If we are to come out of the pandemic, there are still simple but important things that each one of us can do to move on to a better phase.

We need not be the parable donkey, but in the current situation, it is better to shoulder our responsibilities and help experts and those making decisions come out with what is best for the people and the country.