“There’s a lot of information that’s coming in about this Omicron Variant, a Variant of concern that’s been classified by WHO (World Health Organization),” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove—an American infectious disease epidemiologist, during a live stream Q&A. “But it will take some time for us to have the complete picture.”

The world is in on its toes once more as the Omicron Variant (or B.1.1.529), a new variant of the novel coronavirus discovered on November 25th, has now been detected in around 40 countries across all six WHO regions, with a constantly increasing transmissibility rate now twice as fast as the Delta Variant (according to early data gathered in South Africa). Unfortunately, despite having two doses of the Moderna Vaccine, an individual from San Francisco, California, had already been infected by this variant. With roughly three times as many mutations as the Delta Variant, little is known about it, including its severity, though reports have shown a range of disease severity from mild to severe.

This is the lethal aspect of the Omicron Variant. Its unpredictability, combined with the fact that it has not been thoroughly studied, creates a huge aspect that threatens the human population. Scientists began to explore and experiment in order to discover procedures to aid against this variant as countries worldwide began tracking ways to defend their lands, with Japan even deciding to close its borders to all new foreign arrivals until the 31st of December. Everyone in the world appeared to be against a repeat of the Delta, because the Omicron, while appearing to be milder, may actually be deadlier.

While no cases have been identified in the country as of yet, complacency with health regulations and protocols remains a far-off option. As of now, three African flyers who tested positive for the virus are being monitored to see if they have the Omicron variant or not.

“Sa lahat ng mga tao na ayaw talagang magpabakuna, because of… whatever, religious, or… I mean no offense, pero kung ayaw magpabakuna, madali lang naman ‘yan,” said President Rodrigo Duterte, “Pumili ka. Matagal kang mabuhay, o… gusto mo nang mamatay? [Just choose. Do you want to live longer or die?] “

In light of the new Omicron Variant, the President of the Philippines has once again urged citizens to take the vaccine. Even Health Secretary Francisco Duque III emphasized the importance of strengthening the PDITR Strategy, which stands for Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment, and Reintegration. When asked if the variant would enter our country, he responded:

“It’s not a matter of when. So, talagang yan po, papasok yan just as we have experienced with Alpha, Beta, Delta among the more compelling variants of concern.”

While increased awareness is being emphasized in the country, it is an unchanging fact that the Philippines, with the entire world in tandem, is currently still in a constant battle with the virus.

“We have these systems in place,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove added. “We have a global surveillance system for SARS-CoV-2 viruses, we’re increasing genomic sequencing globally, which helps us detect these variants, and we have systems in place to share information.”

It is to be expected that the WHO will be ready to tackle this variant with increased global cooperation. With this knowledge in hand, the citizens’ only option is to avoid the Three C’s: avoid crowded places, avoid close-contact settings, and avoid confined and enclosed spaces. James Maninang // Image from Reuters

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