Worse than Delta?

Worse than Delta?

As of the weekend, two more states in the US had reported cases of AY.4.2, after it was first recorded just two days earlier in two other states plus the District of Columbia. The new pathogen is a sub-lineage of the dominant Delta COVID-19 variant. AY.4.2 has accounted for over 16,000 infections in the United Kingdom since it was first detected in that country last April.

The UK was also where the Alpha variant of concern was first reported earlier this year. Alpha, more transmissible than the original COVID virus, and another variant, Beta from South Africa, fueled a deadly COVID surge last summer that forced a return to tight lockdowns in Metro Manila and several other areas in the Philippines.

AY.4.2, according to worried health experts who are now monitoring the strain, appears to be about 10 times more transmissible than the highly contagious Delta, which drove the latest killer surge in the Philippines that peaked last month.

Of particular concern for health experts is that AY.4.2 is spreading in the UK, where nearly 68 percent of the population has been fully inoculated mainly with western COVID vaccines.

In the Philippines, no case of AY.4.2 has been reported so far, according to health officials. But with the pandemic response team showing a penchant for luring every COVID variant from all over the planet, it may be only a matter of time before the Delta sub-lineage enters the Philippines.

This could not only lead to more COVID deaths and debilitation but also wreak havoc on economic reopening efforts, as Alpha, Beta and Delta did. It could also endanger plans to ease restrictions on minors to allow the resumption of face-to-face classes.

COVID trackers say AY.4.2 has been detected in at least 28 countries, with over 16,830 infections recorded as of the weekend. This is useful to bear in mind as the government eases restrictions particularly quarantine protocols on Filipinos returning from abroad and on foreign travelers from certain countries.

The lockdown to contain Delta was meant to save the fourth quarter, when holiday consumption is expected to revive the economy. The last thing the government should want is to see the lockdown go to waste due to AY.4.2, and even be forced to reimpose tight restrictions.