JUST as the number of active Covid-19 cases in Central Visayas and other parts of the Philippines steadily decreases in the last quarter of 2021, the news of the detection of the Omicron variant of the Sars-CoV-2, which causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), could dampen the holiday season in the country.
With 22 days before Christmas and 29 days before New Year’s Day, the reports about the new variant are distressing. Planned small gatherings before Christmas Day could be shelved if the government would impose strict measures again.
There is a growing evidence that the Omicron variant is highly contagious, health experts said.
Since Nov. 24, 2021, when the variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), health officials have detected Omicron in over 12 countries across at least five continents. The variant poses a “very high” risk, the WHO said on Monday, Nov. 29 (NPR.org).
The list grew as the United States and France recently reported their first case of the Omicron variant.
Unlike his 2020 self who downplayed Covid-19 before it spread throughout the country, Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday that the Omicron variant will surely get into the country.
When President Rodrigo Duterte asked him during a meeting Monday, Nov. 29, of the possibility that the highly mutated Omicron variant will enter the country, Duque replied: “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
“So talagang ‘yan po, papasok yan (it will really enter) just as we have experienced with Alpha, Delta, among the more compelling variants of concern,” Duque said.
The President then told key government officials and health experts that comprise the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to tackle the face shield policy.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told President Duterte that the face shield policy was not disregarded but was integrated in the alert level system. Under Alert Level 1 to 3, the wearing of a face shield is voluntary, while under Alert Level 4, local government units have the discretion to require its use. The use of a face shield is mandatory only in areas under Alert Level 5 (SunStar Philippines).
The Philippine government has imposed travel bans on several countries because of the threat of the Omicron variant. As of Dec. 2, the government had not reported detection of the Omicron variant in the country.
National and local governments have started to loosen restrictions on travel, gatherings and entry to commercial places. In Central Visayas, the number of vaccine jabs against Covid-19 has seen an increase with the staging of the three-day nationwide vax drive from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.
This massive vaccination effort has been extended until Friday, Dec. 3. Central Visayas residents just like any other citizens of any part of the world, for sure, are tired with the ongoing pandemic.
To survive the global health crisis, everyone must learn to live with the coronavirus, but not without protecting one’s self from possibly getting infected.
Adherence to minimum public protocols such as wearing of masks in public and closed spaces and observing social distancing and getting Covid-19 vaccine jabs is still key to survival.
Staying alive is the best gift for loved ones amid the ongoing pandemic and the specter of the Omicron variant.
To continue breathing these days is worth more than a bullion of gold—or the Christmas bonus.