General Community Quarantine (GCQ) “with heightened restrictions” has been imposed anew amid rising concerns over the dreaded COVID-19 Delta variant. The more restrictive regimen was imposed over Metro Manila, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Davao de Oro, and Davao del Norte from July 23 to 31.
Dr. Maurice Edsel Salvana, a noted infectious disease specialist, was featured in President Duterte’s televised weekly program to explain why the emergence of the Delta variant has prompted worldwide concern. In an eyeball: “Delta is more transmissible, potentially deadlier, and can spread quickly faster.”
According to latest data, Delta is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, and three times more contagious than the original SARS-COV-2 virus. While on average a person infected with the original Wuhan (China) virus could infect another three persons, and the Alpha variant five more, Delta could infect eight more — with exponential effect.
Other deeply concerning laboratory findings on Delta are: It could have more than 1,000 particles than the original virus, a longer period of infectiousness, and it becomes infectious faster from the time of exposure to a carrier. Reports from Australia and China indicate that infection could happen during a contact episode with a carrier lasting only two minutes compared to the usual 15 minutes.
Yet, expert epidemiologists maintain that Delta is “beatable” with the proven COVID-19 antidotes: face mask and shield, physical distancing and vaccination.
The heightened restrictions were imposed proactively. These are geared toward deterring another upsurge in cases that could overwhelm the capacity of the healthcare facilities and frontliners to deal with an avalanche of severe and critical cases.
Latest Department of Health (DOH) reports show that 57 percent of the country’s intensive care unit beds, 47 percent of isolation beds, and 44 percent of ward beds which are dedicated for COVID-19 patients, are being utilized.
Out of 54,262 active cases nationwide, 93 percent have mild symptoms; 1.2 percent are asymptomatic; 1.2 percent are in critical condition; 2.3 percent are severe cases; and 1.63 percent are moderate cases. The recovery count is equivalent to 94.7 percent of the country’s caseload.
The pace of vaccination has stepped up in many parts of the country. Even in the midst of heavy rains last week, hundreds queued up in Metro Manila vaccination centers to get their jabs. With higher levels of word-of-mouth encouragement coming from those already vaccinated, large numbers of those who were previously reluctant or resistant have overcome their fear and anxiety.
This is truly a microcosm of the current state of the nation as Congress reopened yesterday for its final session preceding next year’s national elections. COVID-related bills are on top of the legislative agenda, principally the proposed Philippine Virology Institute Act, the Center for Disease Control Act, and the Bisikleta para sa Kinabukasan Act.
Meanwhile, the economic managers are cautiously optimistic that, indeed, recovery from the deep recession triggered by COVID-19 has already begun, and that our people can look forward to better days ahead.