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Mutation

Hearing the news that Metro Manila will be under alert level 4 made me curious what exactly the change meant but after a bit of quick reading, there was no surprise to discover that it is basically a rehashed version of MECQ.

Just when the 500++ days spent under some kind of quarantine status resulted in us starting to understand the confusing alphabet soup of quarantine classifications, government sees the wrong in its ways and changes it. Before, in order of increasing intensity, it was MGCQ – GCQ – MECQ – ECQ. Now it is simply 1 – 5. However, aside from the mutation from confusing letters to slightly more intuitive numbers, nothing basically changed.

Testing remains inaccessible, expensive, and for the positive: punitive. Contact tracing is the same recurring joke that started 18 months ago. Our mass vaccination program still has supply, rollout and hesitancy problems. Hospitals are overloaded. Cases are still rising, surging, or tsunami’ing, depending on the term government officials, apologists and propagandists prefer to use.  With Pharmally face shields considered the defining feature of our COVID-19 response, even fudged statistics still readily confirm that whatever it is, our strategy is among worst in the world.

The bad news is despite everything, nobody has been fired or has offered to resign. Despite the poor performance and epic failures, the boomer command that was handpicked by our dear leader still calls the shots.  Because these special czars who have no background in public health and science have somehow been blessed and fully inoculated from any allegation of corruption or incompetence, we continue to be condemned in one of the worst circles of pandemic hell.

The good news is that our quarantine classifications are now a little bit easier to understand. Metro Manila is under alert level number 4 while Negros Occ. and Bacolod is apparently under some form of GCQ. If you come to think of it, it’s not that hard to understand: if your area’s status turns to a number from letters, government is taking your situation slightly more seriously.

Whatever the quarantine classification or status may be, it doesn’t really matter because the strategy has not mutated. Just as it has been from the very beginning of this ordeal, it’s still every man for himself.

In our case, hospitals are reaching capacity and turning away patients while cases are still rising, driven primarily by community transmission of the Delta variant that has obviously been here for a while already. Delayed genome sequencing test results for Delta mean that by the time we find out a person had it, it’s already too late.

We are so far behind in testing for Delta that by the time the results come out, retests find the person negative for COVID because it’s been more than 14 days and they’ve already been cured and moved on. But 14 days ago, they were unknowingly spreading Delta around. It’s too bad that we don’t have a time machine so we can take proper action then but what is worse is we can’t even test and contact trace properly, even with such technology readily available.

Let’s stop fooling ourselves and just come to terms that Delta is the dominant strain and that it has been that way for weeks, if not months. That is what we should expect when living in a country that put up zero defenses against it. The coronavirus, even before it became Delta, was never thwarted by checkpoints with cops in camouflage kit and long arms, no matter how scary or comforting it may look for humans. Curfews and liquor bans might’ve helped, but only if the basics of epidemic control had been firmly established first.

What cops cannot see, science could’ve detected. The failures of testing and contact tracing of the past 500++ days shouldn’t stop us from making the decision to finally hunker down, do it seriously and do it right. Because if the fundamentals are not addressed, it won’t matter how many times we change the labeling and semantics of the various quarantine statuses.

Unfortunately, aside from quarantine status letters turning into numbers, nothing has changed. When a virus mutates but government doesn’t, it is easy to see which way the war goes. The virus improves its chances for survival with every mutation but we the way things are going, won’t see any change in the way things are run until May 2022. Even then, we don’t even know if we get the good mutation, keep the same germs or, God forbid, end up in a worse position than before.

We cannot beat COVID when it is the only one mutating and improving as time passes. A tiny microorganism without a brain is giving a country’s collection of supposedly best and brightest brains an ass whooping yet our brain trust has done nothing but turn to superficial semantics.

What needs to happen for our leaders to mutate and change finally come so we can at the very least survive?*

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