Unnerving is the warning from the World Health Organization of a “very high” Omicron risk which could overwhelm health care systems with the highly transmissible coronavirus variant fueling record outbreaks.
Case numbers have been shooting up 11 percent globally in the past week, forcing governments from China to Germany and France to find a difficult balance between anti-virus restrictions and the need to keep the economies and societies open.
According to the United Nations health agency, the overall risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron “remains very high.”
Admittedly, COVID-19 cases are surging, but Presidential Adviser Jose Maria Concepcion has raised a space that this country of 110 million – where more than 2.8 million have been infected and nearly 52,000 died since March 2020 – is better prepared to address the new wave because millions of Filipinos have since been vaccinated.
Two senior fellows at the independent OCTA Research group have also expressed the belief that while it is still too early to say when COVID-19 cases will peak, the Omicron variant may spell the “beginning of the end” of the pandemic, which has forced millions out of their jobs and millions, while still employed, have been forced to work from home, their mobility in check.
OCTA fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco said while Omicron is more transmissible, it is milder than other variants and can also fight other strains like Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta.
Austriaco has also allayed concerns over the discovery of a new variant called Ihu or B.1.6140.2, saying the variant, first discovered in October, cannot win against Omicron.
The Department of Health earlier said the increase in the number of cases may peak by the end of this month, and it could possibly surpass the more than 26,000 cases reported in September last year.
But OCTA senior fellow Dr. Guido David has said it is not certain if the country will see a peak in the middle or end of January because of uncertainties over the Delta variant.
His view is that it is still too early to determine when the peak will happen, given several variables, advancing the view that it can happen mid-January if it follows the South Africa experience but it can also be at the end of January if it plays out the previous surges.
He has painted an image that the surge will be in the National Capital Region, the so-called epicenter, and in adjoining provinces.
What has been observed, which David believes is encouraging, is that most of the reported cases in the past few days were asymptomatic and mild, which account for nearly 99 percent of all new cases in the national capital.
And then consumers find themselves in the middle of a lack of reliable supply of popular medicine brands – like biogesic and bioflu – with an undetermined number of the population jabbed by flu, perhaps caused by the abrupt change in weather following the southward sweep of the cold Siberian winds.
If there is a sign of light, pharmaceutical companies have assured consumers of a reliable supply of the popular medicine brands and expedite the delivery as soon as possible of in-demand medicines.
Watsons, a Hong Kong -based pharmaceutical and wellness franchise brought into the Philippines by SM Prime Holdings, Inc., have started restocking their branches although some outside Metro Manila have yet to Wednesday.
Mercury Drug has also started delivering in-demand medicines to its branches in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces while United Laboratories, Inc. said they will rush the delivery of biogesic and other company products within the week.
Government officials have said manufacturers are against setting purchase caps on medicines since supply is ample and deliveries are coming in.
The drugstores would be able to put their quantity limits when they detect unnecessary bulk purchases.
The surge or demand was noticed starting January 2, with consumers complaining they cannot
purchase their drugs of choice in any of the drugstores in their areas.
We have seen long lines of consumers in different drugstore sites from the middle of this week, but the Department of Trade and Industry has advised consumers to be patient and to avoid panic buying.
“We call on consumers to purchase what they only need. Supplies are coming and there will be more than enough for anybody needing these particular drug brands,” DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
He also sought help from consumers to report stores that might be hoarding branded medicines and sell them at twice the retail price.
The DTI will be monitoring specific deliveries to make sure the products are delivered as intended, within the specific time frame committed by manufacturers and retailers.
As we watch the numbers rise, the people are almost in a state of helplessness as others continue to refuse to be inoculated and others more violate quarantine protocols, we say let us cooperate with the authorities and follow the protocols in place.
Let’s band together for our land.