Cover The 3D model of Omicron, a new strain of COVID-19 (Photo: Viktor Forgacs/Unsplash)

Numbers matter when it comes to cases of the deadly Covid-19. When the tally of its victims spiked at the onset of 2022, people fear the virus' more contagious strain—Omicron. In this write-up, Tatler breaks down information about the new variant

Before sending 2021 off, Filipinos were greeted with a familiar sense of normalcy. The pre-pandemic holidays that everybody missed showed up in the guise of bumper to bumper traffic, over-populated malls and gift shops, and year-end gatherings hosted in different venues. The eased COVID-19 restrictions imposed by local government units (LGUs) paved the way for a holiday that is arguably livelier than the last one.

But if there is one thing that the pandemic has taught all of us, it is to remain aware of the rise and fall of the daily COVID-19 tallies. Less than a month after Metro Manila was put under the “minimal risk” classification, the area is once again deemed as “high risk” after the Department of Health (DOH) recorded higher numbers of infections. 

The Health Agency tallied 3,617 Covid-19 cases nationwide on the first day of 2022, up from nearly 3,000 the previous day and more than twelve times the 300 recorded mid-December 2021.

In case you missed it: From 'Poblacion Girl' to The Surge of Covid-19 Cases: Is Omicron Really the 'Beginning of the End'?

 

On December 31, 2021, the DOH together with its partner institutions  University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center, and the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health, announced the discovery of 10 Covid-19 patients carrying the more contagious Omicron variant

This discovery led to a stricter quarantine alert level for people residing in Metro Manila. According to Acting Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Karlo Nograles, the capital region will be put under Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15, 2022. 

Under Alert Level 3, intrazonal and interzonal travels are still allowed. However, the activities listed below shall be put on halt

  • Face-to-face classes
  • Contact sports
  • Funfairs (peryas
  • Live voice/ wind instrument
  • Casino

Limited (30 per cent indoor; 50 per cent outdoor venue capacity)

  • Cinemas
  • Social events
  • Tourist attractions
  • Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions
  • Amusement parks
  • Recreational venues
  • In-person religious gatherings
  • Licensure exams
  • Dine-in services
  • Personal care services
  • Fitness studios; non-contact sports
  • Film, music, TV production agencies and instrumentalities of the government (60 per cent on-site capacity) 

Read more: Omicron, Lambda, Delta, And More: Covid-19 Variants And What You Need To Know

Major cities across the world are making changes to their travel guidelines and Covid-19-related protocols too. According to an analysis done by the Financial Times, at least five countries—including Australia, Denmark, and the UK—have experienced a surge of Covid-19 before 2021 ended.

If you are baffled with all the information related to the new Omicron strain, here are bits of simplified facts you can equip yourself with: 

1. First Identified in South Africa

On November 24, 2021, South Africa reported the discovery of B.1.1.529, a new SARS-CoV-2 variant. The strain was first detected in specimens collected on November 11, 2021 in Botsanowa and on November 14, 2021 in South Africa.

2. More Contagious

The report released by the WHO revealed that the Omicron has a concerning number of mutations. Preliminary studies said that the risk of reinfection with this variant is higher compared to other variants of concern. Some laboratories have even indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected. 

In case you missed it: Omicron Fact Check: Do Viruses Become Less Deadly To Survive?

3. Severe Illness

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical professionals and scientists need more data to know if Omicron infections and reinfections cause more severe illnesses or deaths than infection with other variants of COVID-19.

The following are some of the most common symptoms of Omicron:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy throat 
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Slight loss of smell and taste (The loss of smell, though, is more associated with the Delta variant than with Omicron)
  • Muscle aches

4. Vaccines can still protect

Vaccines that are available today are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalisations, and deaths caused by the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. Medical experts and scientists stress that the best shield against any budding strain is vaccination. 

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