Although our local COVID cases have plateaued to 5,000-6,000 a day (still bad numbers, we know), we are far from being in the clear just yet. Coronavirus strains and variants abound and they continue to evolve and plague the world. The Delta variant — perhaps the most concerning one at the moment — has already been detected in the Philippines. Here’s why we shouldn’t let our guard down.
What is the Delta variant?
The Delta variant, also known as the B.1.617.2 lineage, was first identified in India in December 2020. Shortly after, it quickly spread, becoming the most dominant strain in India and the UK. It got its name after the World Health Organization (WHO) established that the noble variants will be named after the Greek alphabet.
A few months later, in May 2021, WHO declared the Delta variant as a ‘variant of concern’ (VOC).
Why is Delta a variant of concern?
India’s SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) lists the Delta variant as a VOC for three reasons: increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells, and potential reduction of monoclonal antibody response.
A high transmission rate means more people are in danger of catching it and potentially ending up in hospitals. Low antibody response would mean longer time spent getting well and, again, a higher risk of passing it on to other people. This also means that the older population and those with comorbidities are in even more danger.
Which countries are affected?
The Delta variant is swiftly spreading across the globe in over 100 countries. Flourish has made an updated interactive map of the world where the Delta variant is detected. The most affected ones include the US, Russia, Singapore, Indonesia, UK, and Australia. It goes to show that even countries with the best pandemic response are on their toes, with Delta causing a rise in local cases.
Does the Philippines have local cases of the Delta variant?
On July 5, the Department of Health (DOH) logged two new cases of the Delta variant in the Philippines, bringing the count up to 19 cases. You might remember that the first few confirmed cases were OFWs who flew in from the United Arab Emirates and Oman back in May. Of the 19 cases, 18 have recovered, and one died.
Are vaccines effective against it?
“All of the WHO emergency use listed vaccines do protect against developing severe disease, hospitalization, and death due to the Delta variant,” says Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s Chief Scientist. So yes, the vaccines are effective against critical COVID stages brought even by the Delta variant. If you got the jab, you’re at least done with one important step in protecting yourself.
Another strain to watch out for: Lambda
New coronavirus strains keep coming and they’re even more dangerous than the last one. The Alpha, Beta, Theta, and Delta variants are deadly enough but the world is gearing up for another one — the Lambda strain (C.37). It has spread to over 30 countries and is dubbed the “world’s most transmissible COVID-19 strain.” WHO classifies it as a “variant of interest.” The Lambda coronavirus strain was initially discovered in Peru where it is detected in 81% of the country’s cases since April.
According to DOH, the variant hasn’t been detected in the Philippines just yet, but they’re still sounding the alarms. Especially since some data show that the current roster of vaccines is “not as effective in neutralizing the new strand.”
What should you do to avoid infection?
Whichever coronavirus variant we fear at the moment, the solution is still the same: mask up, wash your hands, and keep your distance. All the viruses are transmitted in the same way — via air droplets or droplets that linger on surfaces. Wipe your face, eyes, and nose with a dirty hand, and there’s a high chance your test results come back from the lab positive. Aside from these safety measures, you should consider signing up to get the vaccine if you haven’t yet.
Vaccination is still the best protection
Like we said earlier, getting the vaccine is the first step to making sure you’re safe from the virus. It won’t guarantee you never catch it, it just guarantees you won’t end up in the hospital or worse. The Philippines has a long way to go in getting the entire population vaccinated. As of writing, we have vaccinated at least 5.5% of the population.
To get vaccinated, contact your local government and inquire about the vaccination schedule. They will most likely direct you to an online portal where you will sign up and wait for your appointment. Make sure you come back to complete your second dose. And in case staying away from the virus isn’t enough motivation for you, vaccinated Filipinos also get some cool perks if they show proof of their jab.