Defending against another wave of Covid
The UK and Russia are facing what could be new and massive outbreaks of Covid-19, and so soon the Philippine health authorities must keep a close eye on unfolding events in those countries.
British health experts are trying to determine whether the new outbreak of Covid-19 cases is triggered by a new strain of the Delta variant, called Delta AY 4.2. There is evidence that this mutation spreads faster than the original variant, although it is still unclear whether it could lead to more severe cases or whether it is “invisible” to the current range of Covid vaccines. .
So far, more than 15,000 cases of AY 4.2 have been confirmed in Britain since it was first detected in July. This represents 6% of all confirmed Delta cases.
Britain has more than 50,000 cases of Covid-19, the second highest rate in the world behind the United States.
Russia is grappling with a resurgence of infections with new cases exceeding 30,000 and deaths reaching a record 1,015.
In Moscow, strict restrictions were imposed, with unvaccinated elderly people being asked to stay in their homes for four months, starting October 25.
President Vladimir Putin has also been asked to declare Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 non-working days across the country to prevent crowds from gathering and give the virus a chance to spread further.
Despite having an adequate supply of vaccines (and being the first to deploy a vaccine against Covid-19), Russia’s vaccination program falls far short of herd immunity target with just over 45% of the population having been bitten. This makes around 51 million people vulnerable to infection.
The resurgence of the coronavirus in both countries comes at a time when the Philippines is on track to revive the economy. The government is confident the virus has been confined to a few areas and has ruled out another nationwide outbreak.
The outlook is promising that the situation will improve further by Christmas. But let’s not forget that around the same time last year, we were looking forward to 2021 as the year we would beat the pandemic.
Doubts began to erode that enthusiasm in January when the Health Department confirmed the country’s first case of the British variant, a 29-year-old Quezon City resident who arrived from Dubai earlier this month. A few days later, cases of British variants emerged as far north as Kalinga.
Health officials were amazed at how quickly the variant had spread. In a matter of weeks, he had almost the whole country in his grip. Infections have fallen to manageable levels after a series of long, hard lockouts.
Just when we thought we had survived the worst, the Delta variant arrived and would have continued to rampage if its progress had not been halted by the mass vaccination campaign that began in March.
Now that the threat of AY 4.2 looms, we hope the government has learned enough from its battles with the British and Delta variants to come up with a better defense strategy.
On the one hand, it must review its porous border control system, which allowed the virus to infiltrate. Travel restrictions were only imposed after the British and Delta variants had already reached our shores.
Testing and quarantine procedures should also be consistent and not be subject to abrupt and confusing changes.
The new policy of virtually waving travelers from ‘green countries’ – those considered low risk for Covid-19 – definitely needs to be reassessed in the wake of new outbreaks in Britain and Russia.
These two countries are not on the green list, but it is not known whether travelers from these places spent time in a listed country before flying to the Philippines.
The health ministry should also have enough information on AY 4.2 to know if the vaccines used in the country are effective against it, in case it needs to stock up on more powerful upgrades.
The threat may be remote, but we can’t take any chances. We have been caught on the wrong foot twice before. We cannot afford a third time.