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Season of death

/ 05:06 AM December 14, 2020

If we go by the casualties attributed to COVID-19 in our country, the number of deaths is low. We have 8,733 deaths due to the virus out of 449,400 of our countrymen who have contracted the virus as of yesterday, and out of our total population of 110 million Filipinos. But why does it feel like there have been so many deaths occurring in our midst from all sorts of illnesses and causes this year? In just the past few weeks, our town’s 43-year-old police chief died from aneurysm, a college batchmate’s wife who was only in her 50s died of cancer, a friend’s brother died of an undisclosed cause in his middle age, a former officemate’s mother died of lung disease, a househelp’s father died because of heart ailment, and several other acquaintances’ parents died due to a variety of illnesses.

There seems to be more senior citizens dying from heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and other medical conditions in our hometown. From my 3,200-strong circle of family and friends in Facebook, there’s not a week that passes without someone mourning the passing of a loved one or expressing condolences for the death of a relative or friend.

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At first, I thought this impression is just true in my own circle of family and friends. But after an informal survey, a lot of people are also noticing the increased frequency of deaths from all sorts of causes within their own circles.

Are these deaths occurring because undetected cases of COVID-19 infections are worsening people’s preexisting illnesses? Numerous people entertain this suspicion, and if they’re correct, our official tally of deaths due to the virus is excessively underestimated. For deaths that occur within hospital premises, however, I gather that there’s a protocol to administer COVID-19 tests on deaths in their premises. But for deaths occurring in the abodes of poor communities, it is probably the case that tests are not administered to find out if the virus was a contributory reason for the deaths.

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Are these deaths happening because many of our countrymen have not been able to go to their doctors for regular medical check-up, or they’re taking less maintenance medicine resulting from lost or diminished income, or their medical conditions have worsened as a consequence of unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and weakened psychological well-being?

Are we getting this sense because death incidents are magnified in our sphere of attention due to our heightened fear of the virus? And with no parties to hold, no shopping to indulge in, no sports to watch, and no vacations to go to, are death occurrences becoming the only attention-worthy incidents in our lives?

We’ve also had more than our fair share of natural calamities this year—21 typhoons, severe floods due to very heavy monsoon rains, and the Taal volcanic eruption—that added to more deaths in our country even while we’re reeling from the pandemic.

There’s also the swelling number of assassinations involving lawyers, journalists, activists, politicians, and even ordinary folk. These dastardly murders bolster claims that an unprecedented plague of violence has descended on our country under the current administration.

And then we have our own government, which is churning out more deaths in our midst. Deaths from the government’s anti-drug war campaign have been spiking up from all indications, even while our people are debilitated by the pandemic. There are also increasing death incidents in the government’s regurgitated war against alleged communist rebels. Do we see rampaging rebels killing ordinary people and violently taking over territory to warrant the revitalized hostilities against the Left? Or is there simply an addiction to war, conflict, and violence on the part of our current leaders?

The ruling administration seems to be competing with viruses, diseases, natural calamities, and criminal syndicates in a bizarre race to bring about the most number of deaths in our country. Perhaps it intentionally wants its reign to be remembered as our country’s season of death.

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