Thursday, July 29, 2021

Briones: Dealing with the Delta variant

On the go

Is it better to be safe than sorry? Well, of course.

But did the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease do the right thing when it placed Iloilo Province, Iloilo City, Cagayan de Oro and Gingoog City under enhanced community quarantine, “the most stringent form of quarantine,” until July 31, 2021, after the Delta variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) was detected in these areas?

Hmm, perhaps the call for prudence applies in this case. Although I think the IATF should have explained first what the Delta variant is all about so people don’t panic and automatically assume that what happened in India will happen to us here in the Philippines.

Yes, the health care system in India was overwhelmed when Covid-19 cases spiked, but its health infrastructure was already troubled when the pandemic struck.

As early as in May 2020, it found “a severe dearth of medical equipment such as the testing kits, PPE masks and ventilators. It also noted the long running shortage of emergency health care and lack of professionals: the ratio of doctors to patients was recorded as 1:1,445 and of hospital beds to people 0.7:1,000, with a ventilator to population ration of 40,000 to 1.3 billion.”

It also didn’t help that mass political rallies were held for the recent elections and hundreds of thousands of people gathered for religious events.

Unfortunately, what the public associates with the Delta variant are images of funeral pyres on the streets, people on oxygen masks and families mourning the death of loved ones.

That’s why I turned to World Health Organization’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who shared what they know about the Delta variant, as of July 2021.

She said it is a variant of concern because it has increased transmissibility. Where the Delta variant is identified, it rapidly takes off and spreads between people more efficiently than the Alpha variant. The Delta variant has been reported in 96 countries and is expected to spread.

She enumerated factors that contributed to the increase in transmission, such as the emergence of variants of concern, increased social mixing and social mobility, relaxation of public health and social measures and uneven or inequitable distribution of vaccines.

She emphasized that the “the world remains largely susceptible to infection, including any variants of concern, including the Delta variant.”

So how do we protect ourselves from the Delta variant?

First, make sure you have clean hands, she said. Wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth and make sure your hands are clean when donning the mask. Avoid crowded spaces. Keep distance from others. When indoors, make sure the room has a good ventilation. And finally, get vaccinated.

And what was her recommendation to countries around the world? Continue to adhere or reinforce adherence to all existing safety and health protocols. Not once did she mention lockdown or that the Delta variant is deadlier than the other variants.

The government should make that clear to the public to prevent any unnecessary anxiety that might lower a person’s immune system and make him or her susceptible to infection.


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