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EDITORIAL - Delta warning

EDITORIAL - Delta warning

(The Philippine Star) - June 24, 2021 - 12:00am

Despite ongoing vaccination campaigns, top health experts are warning that the world is far from being done with COVID-19. Not just because vaccination across countries is uneven and the supply is tight except in a handful of wealthy states, but also because of the spread of more contagious and seemingly deadlier mutations of the coronavirus.

In the Philippines, experts are calling for strict border controls to prevent another surge similar to the one from March to May that saw patients dying as they waited for critical care accommodation in hospitals. The summer surge forced a return to economically crippling lockdowns in Metro Manila and at least eight provinces. The lockdowns prompted economic analysts to downgrade their growth forecasts for the country.

With the virulent Delta variant first detected in India now in the Philippines, authorities must do more to improve pandemic response capabilities especially for testing, contact tracing and isolation – especially because COVID vaccines are still acutely limited in supply, despite all the rosy pronouncements from the government.

Countries leading in the COVID vaccination campaign such as Britain and Israel are seeing an increase in fresh cases, forcing a return to certain restrictions. Britain’s prime minister has warned of a “rough winter ahead.” Indonesia is grappling with a spike in infections this month, attributed to greater mobility during the Eid al-Fitr holiday as well as the possible spread of the Delta variant.

In the Philippines, the number of Delta variant cases has gone up to 17 after four Filipinos who returned from abroad tested positive for the mutant pathogen. Even before the country can sufficiently contain the mutation, India has issued a warning on an even more virulent Delta plus variant, with 21 cases detected in that country as of last Tuesday. There are reports that the new variant could circumvent the human immune system and unleash a third COVID wave in that country that has already lost over 390,000 lives to the coronavirus.

Last Friday, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist said the Delta variant had become the globally dominant strain of COVID, with infections reported in 80 countries. The Delta plus, meanwhile, has been reported in nine other countries apart from India: China, Japan, Nepal, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, the UK and the US. It could spread rapidly to more countries. The Philippines cannot afford to relax its guard.

COVID-19 VARIANT
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