"Let us keep each other well, safe, and alive."
The Department of Health (DOH) has recently confirmed local transmission of the COVID-19 Delta variant. As of this writing 47 cases have been detected in the country.
6,546 new cases were reported by the DOH on July 21, and the daily average for the week was 5,570. As of July 23, the total number of cases is more than 1,530,266 (1.53 million) with 1,452,813 (1.45 million) recoveries. The total number of deaths was pegged at 26,891 (source: worldometer).
The status of vaccination leaves much to be desired. Data from HerdImmunityPH reveal that as of July 15, only 5.78% Filipinos of the target seventy (70) million herd immunity target are fully vaccinated. At the rate the vaccination rollout is going, it will take about one-and-a-half (1.5) years or January 2023 to achieve herd immunity. Currently, the vaccine supply we have is enough to fully inoculate 14.11% of the population.
Simply put, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and it continues to wreak havoc in our lives. Meanwhile, the government is super slow in its vaccination drive.
And now, local transmission of the Delta variant has been confirmed. Why should COVID-19 Delta variant be a cause of serious concern to all? According to The New York Times, it is the most transmissible variant of the virus yet. Delta may also be able to partially evade the antibodies made by the immune system after a coronavirus infection or vaccination. This means that those who have recovered from the virus, and even those who have been fully vaccinated, may still get this variant.
Experts are unanimous in saying that the highest risk of getting the Delta variant is among the unvaccinated population. Given the slow and erratic vaccination program here, we can say that many of us are at risk.
Delta may cause more severe illness, although more research is needed. According to experts, there is a greater risk of hospitalization for those who catch this variant that has now been detected in 85 countries including the Philippines. Presently in the United States, Delta is the more dominant variant now accounting for 51.7 percent of positive COVID-19 samples (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). There has been a 10-percent increase in positive cases there.
However, vaccines that are in use in the US are effective against all detected COVID-19 variants, including Delta. On the other hand, recent reports indicate that Sinovac is the least effective against this variant and in the Philippines, many, if not most, have been administered with this Chinese vaccine.
Perhaps the most disturbing report about the Delta variant came from Australia. Officials there are emphasizing that COVID-19 can be, and is transmitted through the air. According to The Guardian, “Scarily fleeting encounters” resulting in Delta spread in Sydney was captured after CCTV revealed two people walking past each other transmitted the virus. Imagine that!
Infectious diseases experts say that a greater focus on airborne transmission is needed to manage the spread of the COVID virus. Australia is seeing very fleeting contacts leading to transmission. The Delta virus was described as, “a gold medalist when it comes to jumping from one person to another.” Even the World Health Organization (WHO) finally acknowledged the airborne spread of COVID-19 last April after months of growing scientific evidence. Meanwhile, there is not much emphasis on airborne transmission.
In the Philippines, few people understand that COVID-19 may be transmitted through air especially in congested and poorly ventilated areas. Although the case in Australia is just one, they were able to establish transmission through air. And this was between two persons who just passed each other by, meaning it only took a few seconds for the virus to be transferred.
How dangerous is it here where a lot of people are careless in following protocols? More and more people are congregating, even having parties, sometimes even in air conditioned areas. One ordinarily sees people on the streets wearing face masks the wrong way.
Thailand has predicted that soon, the Delta variant will be the dominant variant there also because many Thais were vaccinated using Sinovac. Are we far behind?
The Duterte administration has said that this is an emergency. Yet, the President will meet with the IATF in the evening of the following day. Again, it seems that there really is no sense of urgency. An emergency is an emergency. Government does not have the luxury of time and has to act fast.
General Community Quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions has just been imposed on Metro Manila and four other areas. Outside of this, it is most important to significantly speed up the vaccination roll-out since the highest risks are among those who remain unvaccinated.
For those who can afford it, stay home and work from home as much as possible. Open your windows for ventilation. If you can, do not use the air conditioner especially in areas where people gather. Wear your mask properly. Practice physical distancing.
Remember that the Delta variant can be transmitted through air. Be vigilant. Let us keep each other well, safe, and alive.
@bethangsioco on Twitter; Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook