It’s now almost a year since the coronavirus spread across the world. We all thought that by now, we’d be back to life as we know it. But, as we would have it, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic — and it’s far from over. While we patiently hope for the promise of effective vaccines to boost our population’s immunity, new COVID-19 variants have managed to spread in our country. Potentially, these variants can prove even more dangerous. So before the situation worsens, let’s all stay vigilant. Protect yourself and your family by being informed.

What are the new COVID-19 variants?

Viruses constantly change and mutate, and in the most unfortunate of cases, they persist and circulate even more. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported three new COVID-19 variants:

B.1.1.7

First detected in September 2020 in the United Kingdom, this is known to spread more quickly and easily than others. It is now highly present in London and has been detected in other countries, including the Philippines.

1.351

Emerged independently in South Africa in October 2020, COVID-19 variant 1.351 has also been associated with an increase of cases in South Africa.

P.1

Detected in Haneda Airport in Japan in four travelers from Brazil, P.1 has additional mutations that might affect its ability to be detected by our bodies’ antibodies.

How Contagious is the Coronavirus and new COVID-19 variants?
New COVID-19 variants are known to spread more easily. Photo by Hello I'm Nik 🎞 / Unsplash

While scientists have observed that these variants tend to be transmitted faster, there is still much to know how they can affect us and if the developed vaccines are still effective. But so far, according to the World Health Organization, they don’t seem to cause more severe illness in infected patients. Most importantly, they also don’t appear to have increased death rates.

Still, with an increased transmission rate, this will undeniably be an added burden to our already strained healthcare resources. If not stopped, our frontliners will have an even harder time, and so will we as a community as well.

How can we protect ourselves?

1. Always wear your protective gear

It’s been months since wearing masks and shields have become the norm, but time and time again, we need to remind ourselves about it. Ensure that it is completely covering your mouth and nose when you head out.

Cloth masks offer us protection, but its effectiveness to filter out harmful particles depends on the fabric use. If yours seem thin and flimsy, layering two masks can help. Even better, switch to more effective ones, like medical-grade and FDA-approved surgical, N95, or KN95 masks.

We understand that living in a humid country makes wearing such protective gear even more stifling. But wearing our masks and face shields properly is only a tiny yet incredibly helpful sacrifice for the safety of all. Wearing these helps us cover ourselves from the both old and new COVID-19 variants and it also protects others from us in case we unknowingly have it. It’s always better safe than sorry.

Protective masks, normally used for surgery, are now in use to fight the Corona Virus SARS-nCov-19.
Wear proper masks when heading out. Photo by Mika Baumeister / Unsplash

2. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize

By now this should have become a habit for each of us. Washing our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as much as possible will protect us from the virus. As would, of course, carrying a bottle of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizers with at least 60% with us at all times.

Just to be sure, make it a point to wash the clothes you used outside and take a shower right when you get home. Having a sanitizing foot bath mat at home might also be a good thing to ensure you’re not unknowingly bringing in the virus from your soles.

3. Stay safe at home

Not all of us are working from home and can stay at home 100 per cent of the time. Many of us have to head out to make a living for our families. But it would be wise if we keep our trips outside our home to a minimum. Head out only for essentials, or better yet, do your shopping online. With almost everyone free to visit malls nowadays, it has become extremely hard to maintain social distancing. Though restrictions on travel and other leisure activities have relaxed, it’s still best to stay at home as much as possible.

4. Limit your circle

After a year of not being able to freely visit our loved ones, we’ve come to miss them dearly. But for now, continue to practice safe distancing and postpone your gatherings till brighter days have come. Stick with people in your household and reduce the size of your social bubble. Perhaps, aside from co-workers in the office and the people you’d inevitably encounter in your daily commute, don’t spend prolonged time with others indoors.

The more you’re in contact with, the more you become exposed. And with easily transmissible new COVID-19 variants present in our country, we don’t want to risk another spike in cases. Limit your bubbles and stay safe.

Video call with friends
Host virtual meet-ups instead of going out with your friends. Photo by Gabriel Benois / Unsplash

5. Consider getting vaccinated

Finally, to boost your immunity from the virus, think about getting vaccinated against it. It’s important to note, however, that at this point, we don’t know for sure whether the vaccines are effective against new COVID-19 variants. Keep abreast of the news and do your research. Book an online appointment and consult doctors on SeeYouDoc to know which vaccines are effective, safe, and are worth it.

Getting vaccinated is important in fighting against this pandemic. If a significant amount of our population becomes immune from COVID-19, even more people stay safe and healthy. Let’s just stay hopeful and stick to health guidelines. Once numbers have flattened and dialed down significantly, we’ll be free to enjoy life as we’ve lived it before.

Sources: CDC, WHO, Rappler, The New York Times