"I plead everyone to get vaccinated and to continue observing minimum public health standards."
The steady uptick of COVID-19 Delta variant cases in many places is unnerving. In this crucial time, our government must do everything in its power to forestall the complete dominance of this virulent variant here in the Philippines.
Our attempt to delay its entry started when authorities imposed a travel ban for travelers coming from India. At that time, by the end of April, India just culminated in a series of religious festivals and election rallies. Those superspreader events caused India to peak into an apocalyptic second COVID-19 wave driven primarily by the Delta variant.
Delta is so contagious that it can be transmissible in seconds. No wonder it spread like wildfire to neighboring countries with contiguous borders with India. Hence it also doesn’t come as a surprise that in just two weeks after the travel ban, health officials detected the first two Delta cases from overseas Filipino workers who arrived from the Middle East. Both had no travel history to India, yet they were infected. More Delta variant cases were detected from then on, and lamentably now, we have community transmission as Delta variant cases soared to 450.
As of this writing, the Department of Health has reported 79,016 active cases, the highest number of active cases since April. Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed occupancy rate has now risen to 68 percent. The Delta variant has now spread to 13 out of the country’s 17 regions. Personally, this hits closer to home as hospitals in Quezon province are now full and patients are forced to line up and wait before they are admitted. We are also seeing these scenarios in Cebu and in the National Capital Region.
Processing all these facts can be suffocating. It seems like we circled back to August of last year as several cities and provinces have reverted to the strictest quarantine due to the surge driven by the Delta variant. The situation is too grim that I am certain most Filipinos are praying that the Almighty would spare us from a catastrophic wave as in the case of India, and which is now being contented by our ASEAN neighbours in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
In our country’s case, I believe it is not too late to prevent massive infections and deaths due to the Delta variant. It is good to know that concurrently the government is improving its vaccination pace as the country administers a daily average of 516,601 COVID-19 vaccine doses. A data analytics expert estimates that if we carry on with this speed, we can reach herd immunity with 70 percent of our total population fully vaccinated by March 2022.
The pandemic however remains volatile. This is why I ask our authorities to keep an eye on brewing discourse abroad that the Delta variant has altered the virus’ original reproduction rate. This translates to the variant possibly driving the herd immunity threshold to over 80 percent of the population, even up to 100 percent. Other issues that surface are the cropping up of other variants of concern such as the Lambda variant from Latin America and the Delta Plus variant spawned by Delta itself. With these, all the more should our government secure enough COVID-19 vaccine supplies as these remain highly effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and deaths.
As of today, the vaccine roll out in the country is at 24.4 million. Thirteen million people have received their first doses, while 11.3 million are now fully vaccinated. More than 38.6 million total doses have arrived in the country, and with the Delta variant now widespread across the country, we ask the government for a fair vaccine distribution across the regions and not just within the NCR Plus Bubble.
The Delta variant is truly worrying as it has mutated the “normal” we have gotten to adjust to since the start of the pandemic. It has been an exhausting journey, but I plead everyone to get vaccinated and to continue observing minimum public health standards. As we know, this pandemic war is far from over, but we can battle together and overcome it. Let’s not get complacent.