Less than three weeks after President Marcos declared “no more lockdowns” in his first SONA, the Senate is implementing a “three-week lockdown” as it tightened its health and safety protocols amid surging Covid infections. Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Imee Marcos and Cynthia Villar tested positive for Covid and are isolating, although they still attend sessions online.
As of August 11, the country has 36,035 active cases, according to the Department of Health. Of these cases, 21,138 are mild, 291 cases are severe, and 128 patients are in critical condition.
The Philippine Genome Center on Monday said the current spike in Covid-19 infections is brought about by the Omicron BA.5 subvariant. In a televised public briefing, PGC Executive Director Cynthia Saloma said about 85 percent of the sequenced samples is composed of Omicron BA.5 subvariant. The country sequences about 1,200 samples per week.
The World Health Organization said Covid-19 deaths fell by 9 percent last week with over 14,000 fatalities reported. Globally, the number of new weekly cases remained stable from August 1 to 7 as compared to the previous week, with over 6.9 million new cases reported. As of August 7, WHO reported a global total of 581.8 million confirmed cases and 6.4 million deaths.
At the country level, WHO said the highest numbers of new weekly cases were reported from Japan (496,968 new cases; up 9 percent), the United States (759,806 new cases; down 19 percent), the Republic of Korea (713,078 new cases; up 26 percent), Vietnam (571,458 new cases), and Turkey (406,322 new cases). The highest numbers of new weekly deaths were reported from the United States (2,764 new deaths; down 2 percent), Brazil (1,445 new deaths; down 21 percent), Italy (1,059 new deaths; down 12 percent), Japan (1,002 new deaths; up 53 percent), and Spain (654 new deaths; up 23 percent).
The world health body issued a caveat on current trends in reported Covid-19 cases and deaths. It said the figures should be interpreted with caution as several countries have been progressively changing Covid-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected.
GISAID, which stands for the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data, provides open access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Globally, from July 8 to August 8, 2022, a total of 175,384 sequences were collected and uploaded to GISAID. Among these, 174,089 sequences were Omicron variant of concern, accounting for 99 percent of sequences reported globally in the past 30 days. A comparison of sequences submitted to GISAID from July 24 to 30 and July 17 to 23 shows that BA.5 Omicron remains dominant globally, accounting for nearly 70 percent of all sequenced virus samples. The agency said other Omicron subvariants, including BA.4 and BA.2, appear to be decreasing in prevalence as the BA.5 subvariant dominates.
As we relax our pandemic controls like most countries, it pays to remember that the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, which is causing a major spike in local cases, is the same subvariant that is currently wreaking major havoc worldwide. Early evidence suggests the BA.5 subvariant has features that make it better at escaping immune systems, even among the vaccinated, than its ancestors.
Filipinos already know how to avoid Covid infection. But as the pandemic abates, we have a new enemy—pandemic fatigue and complacency. Let’s not allow complacency to undermine efforts to control the spread of Covid in the country.
Image credits: Ed Davad