THIS dogged virus is pushing us to the ropes again. We have over 4,500 for three days in a row, leading up to March 15’s 5,404 count. In all, we have a cumulative number of cases of over 600,000, around 560,892 of which have recovered. Not to be swept aside by blind optimism is the fact that already 12,892 Filipinos have fallen with Covid-19 complications, in many occasions the degree of separation could be gauged by how deprived we were of a final embrace.
The figures notwithstanding, our health officials would rather highlight the brighter figures. If only to allay public anxiety with assurances that our care system is far from overwhelmed.
Department of Health (DOH) 7 spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche assured that as of March 12, system utilization rate in Central Visayas is still below the 60 percent threshold. Critical care in both private and public hospitals in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu are within capacity.
In hospitals, around 44 percent of the Covid intensive care unit (ICU) beds have been occupied; ward beds at 41.6 percent and isolation beds at 51 percent.
These figures emerge amid a number of realities: One, we have expanded our facilities over the course of months last year; two, we have sent out a fleet of efficient contact tracers, a system of deployment that came about with no small help from the Magalong couple. The third one, and this is how the assurances could get muddled up, a variant traced to Central Visayas has been detected, as confirmed by the DOH.
Called P3, the mutant was announced by Japanese officials on March 12. The specimen was taken from a passenger that flew in from the Philippines. The DOH confirmed the Japanese authorities’ findings the following day, although the agency detected the P3 on March 1 yet.
Viruses, by their adaptive nature, shape-shift, but the P3 is still “not identified as a variant of concern” pending additional data. But while we hold these specimens under magnifying glass, they are pretty much out there already, at a portentous time of apparently surging cases.
Health officials warn that these variants could have rendered the virus in easily transmissible forms, and thus their implications to public health. Again, at such a bad time when cases are rising glaringly, exponentially.
These variants don’t figure in the world databank, and thus officials think they may have developed locally. Their implications to the efficacy of the vaccines are still up for study. On whether or not they can strike the body in severe forms, that, too, remains to be seen.
In other words, we’re looking at new uncertainties that we may need to brace ourselves for. Research agencies have recommended a two-week hard lockdown, an extended Holy Week vacation of sorts if only to let the virus sit still for a while.
Up ahead, such hard decisions to make.