“We should remain vigilant.”
Christmas is just around the corner. With the eased restrictions, our health department has allowed physical gatherings, provided that all attendees are vaccinated and that minimum public health protocols and the mandated restrictions are followed. With this, many wasted no time in arranging such gatherings as the pre-pandemic “normal” has started to return.
However, early this week, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced to the world the first publicly confirmed death from the Omicron variant. The new surge of Omicron cases in the UK, according to the UK Health Security Agency, is estimated to be around 200,000 per day. This triggered an emergency booster vaccination in the UK as a response to the alarming rise in the COVID-19 cases.
The news came while this Omicron variant was believed to generally produce milder symptoms than the dominant Delta variant. The situation in the United Kingdom goes to show that the early notions on the milder virulence of this new variant needs to be re-evaluated. Moreover, the rate of transmission of this new variant is alarming. The impact of the surge cannot be ignored. Soon, hospitals will once again be full, and lockdowns may be reimposed in order to control the transmission of the disease.
As we see it happening in other countries, I hope people realize now that the same can happen in the Philippines with the entry of the Omicron variant. We cannot discount the possibility that Omicron may spread worse than Delta.
In the past weeks, I have been reminding the public of the need to get vaccinated. At the risk of being repetitive, let me reiterate that vaccination remains to be a proven protective measure against COVID-19. While scientists are still studying the virulence and the effect of vaccination on this new variant, it pays to be more careful. We cannot disregard the level of protection the vaccine provides and how it prevents critical conditions and death.
While I understand the level of freedom being enjoyed right now by the vaccinated population, I urge everyone to exercise utmost prudence in joining social activities and gatherings, especially with those outside your “bubble.” We are still in a pandemic, and we have just recorded our first cases of Omicron variant. The recent low number of daily cases only reflects the effect of our collective effort in complying with health protocols and getting vaccinated. Hence, we should not be swayed by peer pressure nor by the merrymaking in disregarding the necessary health standards, especially with the threat of this new variant.
Although our first cases are currently in isolation, I implore everyone to always wear masks, choose to celebrate in well-ventilated spaces, maintain social distancing, and be honest about any possible symptom experienced. If physical gatherings can be avoided, I highly encourage everyone to do so as much as possible. Another year of virtual reunions would not hurt in exchange for more healthy years of life.
I am with you all in spreading the love and cheer this holiday season. The spirit of Christmas flows from the giving and sharing, but please, let us keep COVID-19 out of it.