A, B… Delta

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

It’s been said that the path to recovery is hardly ever a straight line. There will be bumps on the road, setbacks, and pitfalls. If we don’t expect that, we’ll be blindsided by them and it will be that much harder to keep pushing forward.

We are in a setback situation right now. Just when the vaccinations are beginning to make a dent in the world – especially in several Western countries and countries that vaccinated aggressively and quickly – the new COVID-19 variant has cropped up and threatens to derail all the progress.

We’ve all heard of it by now – the Delta variant. This variant is said to be easily transmissible, deadly, and twice as lethal as the Alpha variant. Studies have shown that people who contract the Delta variant are not only likely to infect more people (right now they say a minimum of eight), but are also more likely to be hospitalized.

The Delta variant was first detected in India and has become a true variant of concern. How quickly it moves makes it that much harder to contain, and the last thing we want is another outbreak that results in overwhelming our already tired and strained healthcare system.

The World Health Organization has dubbed Delta the ‘fittest and fastest’ variant of concern and the moment it is introduced into a community it takes off quickly. Studies have shown it to  be anywhere from 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than the original Alpha variant which was already fast-moving.

We have already detected Delta cases in the country. While some of these cases were in people who have been overseas or returning workers and seafarers, there have also already been recorded cases of patients with no prior travel history. This may indicate local transmission. Something that needs to be stopped as early as possible.

Currently, the government is trying to take all the appropriate steps needed to prevent further spread and introduction of the Delta strain. The Philippines has banned the entry of travelers from neighboring Indonesia until July 31, while the ban on travelers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, UAE, and Oman will also be in effect until approximately the end of July.

These are necessary steps in trying to contain and control the Delta spread. There’s no time to waste if we want to maintain the progress that we have made. A Delta outbreak could derail everything and send us back into enhanced community quarantine. Something I know that everyone wants to avoid if possible.

At this point, another lockdown would be a big blow. Everyone is slowly starting to get back to their lives and even children are being cautiously allowed outside under strict parental supervision. It would be a shame to go back to square one just because there are people who aren’t exercising caution.

Quite frankly, there are too many businesses and workers who can’t weather another strict lockdown. We have to act quickly and together to prevent that from happening. In other parts of the world, it’s already happening – the UK, Australia, and even Canada are experiencing and extending new lockdown measures in the face of Delta. If they aren’t careful, the US could be next.

So what can we do now? Not much has changed in the COVID-19 safety playbook. We have to stay steadfast on the path forward because this is still our best bet. Vaccination drives have to keep going strong. We need more and more people to get fully vaccinated. Even though Delta is more dangerous, vaccines are still effective against it and we need to get our numbers of vaccinations up.

And of course, it should not need to be said, but we need to follow strict health and safety guidelines now more than ever. We’re being reminded on a regular basis, but it’s painfully obvious that the vaccine has emboldened some people and made them believe that they are safe and can now go about their lives as if they can’t get sick or worse as if they can’t infect anyone else. This is the kind of mentality that we have to stop at all costs before it’s too late.

I understand the news can get discouraging, and being cautious and careful, and even somewhat fearful is legitimate and valid now with new obstacles and roadblocks on our road to recovery. But we can’t allow ourselves to get overwhelmed because that’s when we get careless. We can get through this with forward-thinking, discipline, and of course, cooperation. Get vaccinated and don’t forget to wear a mask.


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