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Still a threat

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The Department of Health has so far ruled out the possibility of imposing travel restrictions on countries facing a new wave of COVID-19 cases, saying the country remains at low risk for the disease, after an uptick in cases and the emergence of new variants abroad, particularly in Singapore where cases rose to 25,900 from May 5 to 11, from 13,700 the previous week.

There are three new variants under monitoring by the World Health Organization, namely JN.1.18, and the “Flirt” variants, KP.2 and KP.3. All three are descendants of JN.1, an offshoot of the Omicron variant. Declaring COVID-19 variants as under monitoring signals to public health authorities that these may require prioritized attention and monitoring.

Of the Flirt variants, the KP.2 strain appears to be the faster spreading one. It was first detected in India in early January and has since spread to Singapore, the United States, China, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Singapore reported an almost doubling of its COVID-19 cases for the past weeks, with KP.2 variants accounting for more than two-thirds of cases. Its health ministry said the new wave would peak in the next two to four weeks, and has urged citizens to wear masks while in public.

The DOH, meanwhile, did not say if any of the Flirt variants had been detected in the Philippines and has not recommended the return of the mandatory wearing of face masks because of the low risk of a public health emergency.

“While there is an observed increase recently, it is small and lower than previously observed increases,” the DOH stressed. It has directed healthcare providers to report COVID-19 cases as “this will help guide public health decision making.”

Despite life having returned to normal for many, and the trials and tribulations of the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly a distant memory, we should still remember to keep our guard up, especially if we don’t want it to happen again. Any outbreak or surge should be treated as a warning and a reminder that simple precautions like mask wearing in public spaces with poor ventilation, along with basic handwashing and common sense, are all it takes to stop it from coming back and wreaking the same havoc that it did to our communities just a few years ago.

Let us do what we can to prevent something like COVID-19 from mounting a comeback.*

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