"It will do more harm than good."
The global community is panicking in a knee-jerk reaction to the emergence of Omicron, the latest variant of the COVID-19 virus. The US and other developed nations this early are sounding the alarm while global financial markets are gyrating on fears that the spread of Omicron will derail the pace of the world economic recovery.
The first sector to suffer the brunt of this unwarranted agitation is the travel industry as nations attempt to close their borders from the sources of the mutation. More countries are rushing to impose travel curbs, with Japan quickly suspending all new flight bookings into the country.
But as the World Health Organization cautioned, blanket travel bans will not prevent the spread or entry of Omicron. The action may, in turn, discourage countries from sharing data about the evolving virus.
Travel restrictions will contain the spread of Omicron. In reality, however, they may be too late. Dutch health authorities discovered that Omicron had been present in their country even before South Africa reported its first cases on November 25.
There is also talk in the medical profession that the new virus strain may be resistant against present vaccines. Again, such chatter has no bases yet. Scientists agree that clinical trials on the efficacy of current vaccines against Omicron will take weeks before any conclusive findings can be made.
The Philippines for its part can limit the contagion through the tried-and-tested health protocols of wearing face masks, and of social distancing and hygiene. The country so far has managed to bring down the daily COVID-19 cases to below 600 in the past four days, following strict lockdown measures and an accelerated vaccination program, from a peak of over 26,000 in mid-September.
The real score on Omicron will surface soon after global scientists reveal their findings. But like the Delta strain, Omicron can be hopefully contained through vaccines or increased immunity. Reacting to a little-known virus variant with panic will do more harm than good.