| Photo by CDC on Unsplash
There is absolutely no doubt that the highly contagious Omicron is now raging quickly all over the world, with countries in Europe and the United States, and Australia reporting record-high cases of infection this week. To manage and control the transmission of this virus to the extent possible, we need to implement strict health protocols. Clearly, the number one health protocol is to quarantine travelers from abroad.
In the United States, a report of a staggering 580,000 cases last Thursday. Experts have already warned of an “Omicron blizzard” as cases of infection continue to rise dramatically, averaging 290,000 daily during the week.
One good news is that recent studies on laboratory animals and human tissues indicate that compared to earlier variants, Omicron causes milder illness. It primarily attacks the upper respiratory tract – the nostrils, throat, and larynx – and causes less severe lung damage. Most significantly for those triple vaccinated. However, the speed at which it spreads still makes it dangerous in overwhelming hospitals and may cause deaths, especially to unvaccinated individuals.
A study conducted in Tshwane, South Africa, which researchers described as the “global epicenter” of the Omicron surge, showed that the peak had passed roughly one month after a surge in cases with milder illness; no corresponding jump in hospitalizations and deaths. It is likely due to high levels of prior infection and vaccination coverage — two-thirds of its population already had some form of immunity from COVID-19, either through vaccination or previous infection.
Yet there is still so much that we don’t know about Omicron, so we must be cautious. Even if studies indicate that it is milder, particularly for those who received mRNA vaccines, it is still the responsibility of every person – especially those who remain unvaccinated – to take precautions because they could be the carrier of a lethal weapon.
Ultimately, no one will argue that it is our responsibility to ensure we do not contribute to the spread of COVID-19, even if freedom and choice are pre-eminent in places like the US. Some countries impose masking and vaccination mandates, limiting people’s options: either you get vaccinated or risk isolation because you could potentially kill another person if you pass on the virus. Aside from the elderly and people with co-morbidities, younger individuals have also become susceptible, younger people hospitalized due to Omicron, as reports confirmed.
In the Philippines, the Omicron variant is already spreading, with new cases spiking to 2,961 last Friday. It is the highest in almost two months, with a recorded positivity rate at 10.3 percent, which is way above the five percent standard set by the WHO. Metro Manila also confirmed local cases of Omicron infection, which will be placed under the stricter Alert Level 3 starting tomorrow.
“Ultimately, no one will argue that it is our responsibility to ensure we do not contribute to the spread of COVID-19, even if freedom and choice are pre-eminent in places like the US.”
The report about this particular individual who flouted mandatory hotel quarantine protocols and even went partying despite knowing she may be carrying the virus is really the height of irresponsibility. After checking in at a quarantine hotel on Dec. 22, this person arrived from the United States, had dinner with some friends the next day, and even went partying at a bar in Makati later that night. On the fifth day since her arrival, she tested positive for COVID-19.
Reports say at least 15 people that came with the violator tested positive. Tourism Secretary Berna Puyat said that after the woman denied it initially, she admitted that she violated quarantine protocols. Puyat also disclosed that the hotel is now under investigation and was issued a show-cause order to explain why the woman could leave the hotel; she was supposed to be isolated.
The bar where the individual went partying also expressed dismay and disappointment at the events. The health and safety of the guests and staff are already compromised — many have been infected.
“For the past two years under this pandemic, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that our venue is a safe place for our customers to have a good time without fear of contracting the virus,” the bar said in a statement.
The establishment had no idea that the woman came from abroad with a prior reservation group. She showed proof of vaccination, took her temperature, and even filled a health declaration form. Consequently, the bar decided to close for the meantime, with the rest of the staff undergoing testing and strict isolation for the next few weeks.
“As true Filipinos, we should do good to our fellow citizens and act responsibly. I pray the New Year will bring a renewed spirit of hope to our country.”
Aside from potentially passing on the virus, which could prove fatal to high-risk individuals, this irresponsible behavior of one individual could also kill businesses that are crucial to the country’s economic recovery.
People should not forget that this pandemic continues to be lethal more than ever. More than five million people worldwide have died, with over 286 million infected and counting – which means their families have also suffered and maybe continue to suffer through this pandemic. Add to that the trillions of dollars in terms of global economic losses.
All of us may have different political beliefs or “colors,” but we all live on the same planet and only have one country at the end of the day. As true Filipinos, we should do good to our fellow citizens and act responsibly. I pray the New Year will bring a renewed spirit of hope to our country.