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Are we on our own now?

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The line that divides the seasonal flu and Covid-19 has blurred.

At the start of 2022, when new Covid cases in the country started rising again, people were confused whether or not the symptoms they felt were indications they had been infected. Or whether a negative test result itself was reassuring.

Last week, a journalist’s rapid antigen test yielded a negative result. Two days later, his temperature was 38 degrees and he thought he just caught the flu. But another test showed he was positive. He has since infected other family members.

His colleague, who also tested negative, began exhibiting symptoms of the virus the day after: hard coughing, runny nose and an itchy throat. This media man’s wife gave him lots of organic tea with lemon and honey. After four days, the symptoms disappeared, but seemed to have been passed on to the wife.Yet another test said he’s still negative.

The scene is repeated in many parts of Metro Manila. For a few days, drug stores ran out of paracetamol. People lined up for Covid tests.

The good news, however, is the general observation by doctors that the recent Covid cases have been mild — patients get well in a few days.

It’s the Omicron variant, says Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, although the Philippine Genome Center has yet to confirm it.

Nonetheless, the Department of Health’s (DoH) tally is alarming: Over 37,000 new cases were recorded on 14 January. Which means the country is in the midst of another Covid surge — this time it’s highly contagious.

Infectious disease experts say there could be lots more unrecorded infected people out there. The danger, they explain, is when the positivity rate gets exceedingly high and there will be severe cases that need hospital confinement — which in turn may lead to yet another back-breaking challenge among medical front-liners.

The Philippines is just one of many other countries reeling from the never-ending health crisis. It’s actually worse in the United States and Europe — with the US recording hundreds of thousands of daily infections.

At press time, the DoH has announced it is stopping contact tracing and instead shifting its policy to better fight this latest surge.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said contact tracing was “not that much prioritized anymore” due to the “very high” likelihood that Filipino households now had at least one member positive for Covid-19.

“You’ll be wasting a lot of resources doing contact tracing when you know the cases are already on an upswing, accelerating, and more and more communities are being infected,” Duque said.

“Now, it’s very difficult to contact-trace everyone. The infection rate is quite high and Omicron is pretty established to be highly transmissible, more than Delta and the other Covid-19 variants.”

Are we thus virtually on our own now?

In any case, the best thing we can do, for now, is never to let our guard down. Never remove that mask. Don’t eat in groups. Avoid the malls as much as possible.

And be fully informed.

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