“Let’s all do our part.”
This was not exactly how we wanted to welcome the new year, but this new surge of COVID-19 cases was a foreseeable disaster.
In my articles last month, I already manifested the high chances of a new surge this holiday season. We were recording very low cases then, but when the increased mobility and eased restrictions are coupled with a notable degree of complacency among the public, one can easily predict another wave of COVID-19 infections.
Despite the persistent reminder to follow health protocols, we recorded exponential increases in the number of cases quickly before 2021 ended. Consequently, the nation was put back to high-risk status. The Department of Health reported local cases of the Omicron variant and suggested a high possibility of local transmission.
The National Capital Region currently accounts for more than half of the 29,000 COVID-19 active cases, with 16 areas under granular lockdown. Many of you may have seen in the news the long queues for RT-PCR and antigen testing, the rising occupancy rate in COVID-19 wards, the unusually long lines in pharmacies, and the shortage of certain brands of medicines.
These are signs that we are at the starting point of a new curve. We take into consideration that this may also be driven by Omicron. The Omicron variant is said to produce milder symptoms, but this virus is highly transmissible—to a greater extent compared to the dominant Delta. Note that experts and doctors estimate that COVID-19 symptoms will likely occur 2-14 days from exposure. However, with Omicron, a study from the US CDC suggests that it may take just 72 hours or 3 days to be symptomatic and contagious.
Hence, if we are to count the days from the holidays, we may still have time to make sure that COVID-19, Omicron or not, does not spread. At present, self-discipline is crucial. I, therefore, strongly urge those who have been out during the holiday season to monitor yourselves, get tested if necessary, and self-quarantine for a few days if possible. Let us prevent, as much as we can, the rise of new infections.
Just as businesses, both small and big, are starting to recover their losses from the pandemic, we are looking at the possibility of another lockdown should cases continue to increase. As it stands, another episode of stricter quarantine rules will definitely hurt our already ailing economy. The financial assistance offered by the labor department for both informal and formal workers will ease the burden from the imposed alert level 3. However, this may not be sufficient and inclusive enough to cover all affected employees should the period be extended, the alert level 3 be expanded, or, worse, alert level be further raised. Thus, I fervently hope and urge the Inter-Agency Task Force to strike a balance with the new policies and restrictions that will be implemented in the coming days, taking into consideration the health and welfare of the people and the economic progress achieved in the past months.
Meanwhile, I strongly implore everyone to do their part. We are all duty-bound to protect ourselves and the people around us from further spread of COVID-19. Our collective consciousness on the detrimental effects of violating protocols is commendable. However, calling out violators and demanding accountability are not enough to curb this new surge. The awareness needs to be translated into concrete and consistent actions in each individual. Hence, it is extremely necessary that we strictly follow protocols, be truthful about existing symptoms and history of travel, and be conscientious in socializing with people within and outside our bubble. Get tested and self-isolate, if needed. Our priority should be the containment of the disease.
As I said previously, I am hopeful that this year will not be “2020 too”. If we are not to make it “2020 too”, it is imperative to do our part to make a difference. I fervently pray that we prevent the upsurge of cases to be able to continue our path to recovery.