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Another Wave of COVID-19 is Spreading: What We Need to Know

Another Wave of COVID-19 is Spreading: What We Need to Know

Standing woman wearing a facemask

On a global scale, the COVID-19 pandemic has been raging on for over a year now. The Philippines is no stranger to the virus, with the first case being reported in early 2020. Per the Department Of Health (DOH), on January 21, 2020, a woman flying in from Wuhan, China had been confirmed as the country’s first ever coronavirus-positive case.

Since then, there have been ups and downs in the country’s fight against the pandemic. And by “ups and downs,” what I mean is that the “curve” has been fluctuating in the last two years. As of writing, we’ve witnessed a total of 3,688,941 infections and 60,455 covid-related recorded deaths in the Philippines. Three-mill and 60K, but the real numbers are likely to be higher.

In December 2021, the country had tallied the lowest number of covid-positive cases, 203 reported in a day, since May 2020. But as lockdown restrictions were lifted since that record-low, the holidays ushered in 2022 with a spike of positive cases, peaking at nearly 39,000 cases recorded in a day. The numbers, however, have dropped in recent months.

Since the conclusion of the May 2022 elections, CNN Philippines writes that there have been no sustained increase in positive cases, as the country is currently averaging around a reported 200 positive cases daily, which equates to a 1.1% positivity rate. Below the WHO’s threshold of 5%; considered “moderate risk.”

For now, Metro Manila remains under COVID-19 Alert Level 1. As Inquirer.net reports, there are 88 other areas in the Philippines alongside the NCR that are also classified under the least restrictive type of lockdown. This basically means that despite the newer coronavirus variants, life continues for many

A Quick Look at the Delta and Omicron Variants

The Delta variant, which had first been identified in India at the tail end of 2020, is said to be twice as contagious when compared to previous variants and is still placing infected people in the hospital. Yale Medicine writes how the Delta variant surged rapidly to become the predominant variant in the United States and 178 more nations worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Omicron variant has since replaced the Delta variant as the predominant variant around the world, as its 72 mutations spread more easily, can better evade the immune system, and breach the efficacy of vaccines. It had been traced to have come from parts of South Africa around November 2021, per Nature.com.

The Conversation compares the two: the starkest distinction is how Omicron’s incubation period is shorter than Delta’s – at around three days – even before an infected individual starts getting symptoms. And once infected with the virus, both variants cause similar symptoms, with the exception of the loss of taste or smell, which is rarely seen in Omicron:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Sore Throat (more likely with Omicron)

Meanwhile, the illness one experiences when infected by the Omicron variant lasts for five days, which is also shorter when compared to Delta and previous variants. Omicron is also less severe. Studies have shown that the likelihood of hospitalization due to Omicron is 40-80% lower, while the risk of death is 60% less, when compared to Delta. Despite this, many hospitals around the world are at capacity due to the sheer volume of people afflicted with COVID-19.

Filipina self medicating at home
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

What is the Deltacron (or Deltamicron) Variant?

According to WebMD, the World Health Organization (WHO) had detected a new COVID-19 variant birthed by Delta and Omicron – the Deltacron variant – which had been seen in parts of Europe like France, Denmark, and the Netherlands in early 2022.

An article by the New York Times explains how the Deltacron is essentially a recombinant, a virus that carries the genes of both Delta and Omicron variants, and is found in a few cases around the world and a number of samples across various laboratories. The hybrid variant is produced in people when, for example, one becomes infected by two different variants at the same time

Unlike the Omicron subvariant BA.2, which continues to cause a slow but steady increase in illnesses and is the dominant COVID-19 variant in the U.S., the Deltacron variant has been described as rare. And in discussing its potential dangers, while the thought of another wave of the coronavirus is looming, a Parisian virologist says that there is no reason to panic just yet.

This argument is hinged on the new hybrid’s lack of ability to grow at an exponential rate. Because it is a recombinant, the Deltacron features a surface protein or spike similar to Omicron, while the rest of its genome is akin to Delta. Because of vaccines and antibodies against both Omicron and Delta, the virologist says that the Deltacron variant is unlikely to bring forth another phase in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study on this Deltacron variant is on-going, which is why the use of the name remains unofficial. Scientists temporarily refer to it as the AY.4/BA.1 recombinant, while some researchers have also nicknamed the recombinant as Deltamicron.

The Current State of COVID-19 in the Philippines: No Cases of Deltacron

woman with facemask walking on the street
Photo by Mc Jay Acedilla on Pexels

In the Philippines, strict lockdown measures have been put in place in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus. From travel restrictions to curfews and granular quarantine classifications, the country’s pandemic response hasn’t been the greatest.

The Philippines is currently ranked 48th out of 53 countries in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking for April 2022. In January of the same year, the nation placed last as Omicron surged right after the holiday season. Logistical problems in vaccination had been cited as a reason. However, as of May 22, 2022, the DOH bulletin reports that a little over 69-million Filipinos have been vaccinated, which is equivalent to 76.71% of the country’s total population.

Indeed, life continues for the Filipino people, as many still struggle with hunger, shelter, poverty, and access to basic healthcare to combat the pandemic, such as free testing, medicines, and vaccines. The crawling and scrapping can be heartbreaking. As of May 2022, there has been no recorded case of the Deltacron variant in the Philippines.

COVID-19 in the Philippines: How We Got Here

The First Wave

The first wave of COVID-19 in the Philippines started in March 2020. While still reeling from the environmental effects of the Taal Volcano’s explosion to start the year, the pandemic happened.

The government responded by declaring a public health emergency and implementing series of strict lockdowns manned by the IATF-MEID, led by the military and police.

The Second Wave

In June 2020, the Philippines relaxed its lockdown measures, which led to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases just two months after. Another wave of cases struck the nation; hospitals choking, healthcare workers and frontliners grasping for hope; futures uncertain; and Philhealth, the state health insurer, caught in a corruption scandal.

By August 2020, the Philippines had hit the 100,000-mark as the country recorded nearly 3,000 positive cases daily. Local doctors called for a time-out. Variants began spreading and cases continued rising as the Ber months rolled in, which then prompted President Duterte to place the country under a state of calamity for another year.

The Third Wave

And by June 2021, a surge of positive cases had been reported in regions outside Metro Manila, just as the number of cases in the capital started slowing down, which had grown to become the pattern – a ripple effect of sorts. From March to April, the Greater Manila Area had just experienced a spike in the number of recorded cases due to the Brazilian variant and its local mutations. Truly, the pandemic was again felt in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The third wave was driven by the first detected case of the Delta variant, which had been reported in May 2021, as it gradually became the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

The Fourth Wave

The country reached the 2 million-mark in total number of reported cases by September 2021. Hospital ICU’s and covid wards were full, patients were dying in their cars, at the doorsteps of emergency rooms, in transit between rejections for admission. This fourth wave had been described as the “most severe” by the DOH, with the Delta variant prompting the need for booster shots to be administered to healthcare workers.

A series of other, lesser-known variants had been detected from October to November, until in December 2021, the Philippines saw its first case of the Omicron variant. On January 1st, the country welcomed the new year with 3,617 new cases – the highest since October the previous year. Thanks to the holiday season’s festivities, community transmission of Omicron had taken place, leading to another devastating wave of cases.

Still remember “Poblacion Girl”? Alongside this surge, which had peaked at 39K recorded cases mid-January, came the shortage in paracetamol and other medicines in pharmacies and drugstores in the metro. Reactive as this may seem, the phenomenon can be seen as a manifestation of panic or lack of faith; a self-reliant effort to combat the spread of the virus. With a dismal, militarized pandemic response, many Filipinos turned to self-medication when they had nowhere else to go.

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After two whole years since the pandemic hit the Philippines, by March 2022, we have had four waves — 3.67 million cases and over 57,000 dead due to COVID-19’s different variants. A little over half of the entire population vaccinated, bracing for another wave.

Is Deltacron Going to be the Last Variant?

Not likely. The Deltacron is not going to be the last variant of COVID-19 that pops up. The virus continues to mutate, herd immunity is far from becoming reality, and new variants are being discovered all over the world. It is important to remain vigilant and take precautions to stay protected.

Pandemic SOP’s and Vaccination are Key

Person getting vaccinated
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels

As the country faces another potential wave of COVID-19, as other nations have been going through a fifth wave of their own, it helps to be aware of the risks and take precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones. Wash your hands regularly, wear a face mask, and stay home as much as possible. If you must go out, practice social distancing, and avoid crowded places. Keep yourself informed, stay alert, and be prepared for the possibility of another lockdown

Getting vaccinated allows your body to build protection in a more reliable, deliberate manner. It improves the chances that you can fight the virus and survive becoming part of the statistic. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines protect you against infections and reduce the risk of severe illness and death.

Here are some ways to deal with COVID-19, should the unfortunate occur, and you find yourself positive:

  • If you live with others, try to isolate as much as possible. This means staying in a separate room and using a separate bathroom if possible.
  • Wash your hands regularly and often, for at least 20 seconds each time.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve – not your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that you frequently touch.
  • Monitor your symptoms and seek medical help if they worsen.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Get rest and sleep as much as possible.
  • Take pain relievers and fever reducers as needed.
  • Do not smoke or vape.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as dishes, towels, and bedding.
  • If you must go out, wear a face mask, and practice social distancing.

Prevention is always better than cure, right? So, if you’re wondering what are the health-related fitness activities that you can do to stay physically fit, the options are near infinite. From cardio and flexibility exercises to building muscular strength and stamina, keeping the lungs healthy and the body strong helps with both immunity and recovery.

For more on the basics of dealing with COVID-19, here’s an FAQ by the DOH.

Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

Having to deal with variant after variant, vaccine after vaccine, it is understandable if ever you feel exhausted. It is a global pandemic that we are dealing with after all. That being said, your mental health must also be considered and prioritized during these unprecedented times.

Here are some things you can do to take care of your mental health:

  • Talk to someone who will understand and can offer support. This could be a friend, family member, or professional counselor.
  • Focus on the positive and be grateful for the gift that is life.
  • Do not compare yourself to others. Everyone is dealing with the pandemic in their own way.
  • Take breaks from the news and social media. Too much information can be overwhelming, and a social media detox can help bring clarity.
  • Find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety. This could include exercise, relaxation techniques, or journaling.
  • Make time for things that make you happy. This could be listening to music, watching a favorite movie, or reading a good book.
  • Seek professional help if you are struggling to cope. A mental health professional can provide guidance and support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone, especially in a society that is still learning how to understand an illness they can’t see. In an article on the Medical News Today, it is discussed how the pandemic impacts one’s mental health, such as eating disorders and anxiety syndromes associated with and triggered by the pandemic.

If you’re struggling with your mental health in the Philippines, try reaching out to Hopeline PH or visit Silakbo.ph for resources you can read up on to educate yourself. And for more on taking better care of yourself, here’s an essay about mental health in the Philippines and the stigma that has left many Filipinos still without a listening ear.

What the Future Holds: Post-Pandemic Times Soon

As we approach mid-year 2022, there is much speculation about what the future holds. Will the pandemic be over by then? Or will we be dealing with variants and waves for years to come? While it is impossible to say for sure what will happen, there is hope that the worst of the pandemic will be over sooner than later. In the meantime, there are pressing concerns IRL as foreboding as the Deltacron variant.

What are your thoughts on the future post-pandemic? Think masks are here to stay for the next decade or so? Let us know in the comments below!

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