A golden booster shot amidst the Delta variant

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez - The Philippine Star

News that Hidilyn Diaz had won the gold in the women’s 55-kg weightlifting category at the Tokyo Olympics spread so rapidly over social media. When she tearfully stood on the podium giving a smart salute, Filipinos all over the world – myself included – were brought to tears, especially when the Philippine National Anthem was played for the first time after 97 long years since our country first competed during the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Hidilyn’s historic feat definitely put the Philippines in the global spotlight, with foreign news networks also carrying the news, especially since her win set two new Olympic records with the 127-kg final lift in the clean and jerk, and the 224-kg total lift for the 55-kg women’s division.

This golden piece of good news can only give us Filipinos a big boost amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Delta variant that is spreading like wildfire not only in the United States but other places around the world, including our country.

First identified in India, this coronavirus mutation is now present in 96 countries and is proving to be more infectious as it has a viral load that is 1,000 times higher than previous variants, according to epidemiology experts. Many countries in Asia are seeing record high cases of infection again per day, with health authorities expressing concern that hospital beds may not be enough because of the new surge. Thailand, for example, registered over 17,000 cases of infection and 165 deaths last Thursday, while India reported over 44,000 new cases, with medical experts fearing that a third wave could hit the country by October.

The Philippine government has so far decided to place Metro Manila under a stricter community quarantine classification to prevent the spread of the Delta variant – with the number of cases having doubled to 216 according to latest reports – and keep the health care system from being overwhelmed.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is data indicating that the Delta variant, which seems to cause more severe illness, could be easily transmissible like the chicken pox, with every infected person able to infect eight or nine other people – much higher than the average of two people getting infected from the original virus strain.

“We’re not crying wolf here. This is serious,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky even as she reiterated the recommendation for people – even the fully vaccinated – to wear masks in indoor places, including schools where transmission could be sustained or high.

What is significant and heartening to note is that the CDC data also indicate that people who have been vaccinated are safer from the Delta variant, with the risk of severe illness or death reduced tenfold and the risk of infection reduced threefold. Moderna has announced earlier that its mRNA vaccine is effective against multiple variants of concern including Delta, with several laboratory studies in Canada and New York also indicating that the vaccine is effective against the Delta variant.

Latest data released by Pfizer have shown encouraging results that a third dose of their mRNA vaccine more than six months after vaccination can strongly boost protection against the Delta variant, as protection from the initial two doses may begin to slightly wane after six months.

As I have pointed out repeatedly, booster shots will definitely be needed at some point because the coronavirus is constantly mutating and over time, new variants may emerge that could be more difficult to contain – which is why we are already reserving for booster shots as of now. We are continuing our work in negotiating with US pharmaceutical companies that are ready to supply the Philippines with COVID-19 vaccines, especially with the vaccination rollout gathering momentum with a record high rate of daily vaccination registered at over 650,000 doses last Tuesday.

There is absolutely no doubt that cooperation between nations, whether “friend” or “foe” alike, is critical because no one knows when this pandemic will be over – a global tragedy as people all over the world continue to perish while economies stagger under the weight of the burden, struggling to recover.

We do have to give credit to the Japanese and their determination to hold the Tokyo Olympics despite initial resistance due to concerns over COVID-19. It is during times like this when people need something that would spark hope and encouragement. Participation in the Tokyo Olympics by the athletes and the nations they proudly represented proved that the human spirit would not be defeated.

It is no wonder that the victory of Hidilyn Diaz was like a golden booster shot in the arm of our country when we needed it the most. Hidilyn demonstrated what it is like to persevere and rise above the poverty in her barangay in Mampang, Zamboanga City, fulfilling her dream of winning that elusive Olympic gold.

Never have I lost faith in the Filipino spirit that remains indomitable, knowing that we have what it takes to triumph despite the odds, showing the world that we are a strong race. I have seen this countless times here in the United States with our OFWs, the health care frontliners who continue to be in the thick of the battle against this pandemic, refusing to be defeated by despair and hopelessness.

We should stop feeling sorry for ourselves by saying “kawawa naman tayong mga Filipino” (we Filipinos are pitiful) because we are not “kawawa.”

As Hidilyn has shown, it is up to us to do our part in showing the world that our nation and people are a strong, resilient, proud race.

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Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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