January 1, 2022. A new year starts again as the country braces for a probable new surge of COVID-19 cases. Some advanced countries are recording record numbers of cases running into the hundreds of thousands. Omicron, the newest variant said to be much more contagious though less deadly than the Delta variant, is now considered as the dominant COVID-19 variant.
This week, France reported 179,807 cases in one day, representing the highest number of cases in a single day for the country since the pandemic started. Last Monday, the USA reported 505,000 new cases. On Tuesday, the United Kingdom recorded 129,471 new cases.
In the Philippines, very few Omicron cases have been detected so far but the number of new cases has been growing exponentially daily. On Thursday, December 30, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,623 new cases from the previous day’s 889 cases. Medical experts are again raising the alarm for another surge. Some say that it is just a matter of time before this happens.
My family is again directly threatened by this virus. An immediate family member has been exposed to another family member who tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to be tested and was advised to isolate even from his household members. Because of this, our plans to celebrate New Year’s Eve together had to be cancelled to keep all the others in the immediate family safe.
Being together to welcome the new year is a family tradition and for the first time, we needed to break this. It is quite sad for me because I had to miss two of my three kids and my two very smart, rumbunctious grandchildren. We are a small family and rare are those times that we are all together. My kids are all grown-ups now, living their own lives. Thus, it felt odd ushering in 2022 with just me and one son.
Still, the first consideration is to keep safe. We still do not know if Omicron is now the dominant variant here because the confirmed cases are few. What we presently know is that Omicron is highly contagious and airborne. Particles are said to stay on air for hours and one can inhale these. Omicron is less deadly than other variants, and there may be less need for hospitalization especially among the vaccinated population. However, if a big number of our people get it like in other countries, the number of those who will need to be confined will also shoot up. Thus, we still should be concerned.
We must remember that our health system, is, to be kind, weak. It cannot be compared to the health systems of many other countries. The logical reason why France, UK, and USA are able to report the hundreds of thousands of cases is that their testing capacity is much better than ours. Mass COVID-19 testing has been the battle cry from the start of the pandemic, but government consistently refused to listen.
Because Omicron is highly contagious, the DOH should be able to test more. Is the department capable? Imagine a surge of hundreds of thousands of cases, imagine how our health system will cope. At present, hospital utilization is still low, but warning signs are all over. Our health system must not be overwhelmed again. We certainly do not want a repeat of what happened in 2020. We do not want more of our people to succumb to this virus and other serious illnesses that were neglected because all our resources were focused on COVID-19.
The thing to do is to keep safe.
Get vaccinated if you have not been. If you are fully inoculated, check if you can already get your booster shots. Get it the soonest you can. Vaccines remain to be the best protection against this virus. Get everyone in your household vaccinated, including the children, as soon as the DOH gives the go signal for this.
Keep your masks on especially when you are with other people outside of your household members. Use appropriate masks. Double mask if you can. Cloth masks do not work as effectively as medical grade masks. You may use this on top a surgical mask. Masks should be properly worn, and the fit should be good.
Avoid crowds. Continue practicing physical distancing.
Avoid enclosed spaces, especially air-conditioned places. Good ventilation is necessary to prevent transmission as droplets in the air will move out and not stay stagnant. If you must meet people, it is better to do it in open spaces with masks on.
Sanitize frequently. Carry your alcohol wherever you go. When at home, wash your hands properly and frequently.
Really, these are not new ways of protecting ourselves. We just need to be vigilant in continuing these practices and not let our guard down.
We should not be complacent.
After two years of this pandemic, we now know that this virus is here to stay. We need to learn to live with it while keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. We now know more and hopefully, what we know can help us navigate 2022 and beyond, better in terms of protecting ourselves from COVID-19.
Make 2022 a safe year for everyone. Happy New Year and cheers to better years ahead!
@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook