Despite the presence of a huge reminder on the wearing of face masks and face shields, a lone rider sits on his motorcycle—apparently oblivious that he is not wearing any personal protective covering to prevent him from catching the coronavirus or spreading it to somebody else.
Whenever there is authority, there is a natural inclination to disobedience.
— Nova Scotia judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton
PEOPLE may not know it but we believe there is a race between the number of Covid-19 patients and protocol violators, and the latter is catching up with tens of thousands disregarding minimum health safety measures daily across the country.
The Department of Health (DoH) said that the appearance of mutated variants of the novel coronavirus, or nCoV, could be behind the recent surge in infections; but undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire had hinted that the root of the problem is actually the public’s failure to comply with minimum health safety protocols and some “institutional gaps” that have contributed in the government’s failure to curb the spread of the ongoing pandemic.
However, we’re still waiting for confirmation from the World Health Organization (WHO) to validate that there is widespread community transmission of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom and the B.1.351 variant first reported by South Africa late last year.
WHO representative to the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe likewise did not attribute the flare-up solely to the variants but also to vaccine optimism that had led the public to let their guard down and become complacent about the quarantine protocols.
Abeyasinghe said that WHO had been seeing a global increase in Covid-19 cases in the past four weeks.
After a stabilization of transmission in January and early February, we have seen now that there is an increase in transmission, not only in the Philippines but in several other countries where there have had successful vaccine rollouts, so the situation cannot just be blamed on slow government response. But in addition to a change in people’s behavior, the increase in cases can also be linked to the spread of the new variants of the coronavirus.
So the mix of these factors could actually be causing higher levels of transmission.
But even with the health department conceding that the presence of the highly transmissible variants in Metro Manila is a major factor in the faster increase in daily cases than at the height of the pandemic in July and August last year, many of our countrymen continue to wantonly disregard the protocols that should be protecting them in the first place and not contributing to their growing complacency.
So, yes, we see that the variants are here and yes their presence is contributing to the increase in the number of infections. But the truth is that the variants are not the only factor that has led to the surge in Covid cases.
Through genetic analysis of samples from select Covid-positive patients, the Philippine Genome Center has so far detected the B.1.1.7 variant in 223 cases and six of these have died while 167 have already recovered and 50 are remain as active cases.
The UK variant has been detected in seven of the country’s 17 regions, mostly in Metro Manila (76 cases) and the Cordillera Administrative Region (41).
On the other hand, the B.1.351 variant has been detected in 152 patients; four of whom have died, 86 have recovered and 61 are active cases.
The South Africa variant has been detected in six regions, mostly in Metro Manila (105).
The Philippine Genome Center has also detected the P.1 variant first detected in Brazil in one Covid-positive Filipino who returned from Brazil and had since recovered.
Aside from the two mutant variants, a coronavirus variant, called P.3 and first detected in the Philippines, has also been found in 104 patients with 96 of them having recovered while the rest are still active cases.
According to the DoH, there is not enough evidence to conclude whether the P.3 variant was a ‘variant of concern’ even as the highest number of confirmed cases in a single day was recorded two days ago with 8,019 new infections recorded by the agency.
And why has the virus spread so quickly? Certainly because they are highly infectious and easily transmissible—but then, if people knew the importance of the health safety protocols, then the virus could have been somehow contained and the number of infections lessened.
And we have reached a point when most of our hospitals are hobbled by staff shortage as many of their health workers have either caught the virus, gone on leave, or resigned so that the hospitals cannot expand their capacity without hiring new workers.
In another view, health experts and advocates blame the surge on the premature reopening of the economy, but we also see gatherings as the reason for the big waves of daily cases.
Actually, the number of new infections was not so high when the government gradually reopened the economy last year, but behind the current surge in cases, are “secret gatherings” where people who were tired of the lockdown met up with family and friends.
There is probably no data about this but if we closely observe each of our communities, we would certainly see our neighbors with their face masks down and face shields up while walking around as if the coronavirus never existed. (AI/MTVN)