OCTA reveals pandemic exit plan amid spread of Delta variants

    Molecular biologist, UST professor, and OCTA Research fellow Fr Nic Austriaco spells out the need for greater protection against new variants—Delta and Delta Plus—detected in the country.

    MANILA — Fr Austriaco says, buidling a COVID-proof wall around the National Capital Region (NCR), as part of its exit strategy, may be achieved by vaccinating a majority of the residents in the NCR area.

    “And so this is the pattern, it starts at the NCR and moves to the provinces. So, [when] we vaccinate the NCR, we prevent the virus from traveling to the provinces. This is especially important now because we are building a wall around the Philippines by vaccinating the NCR+8,” he says.

    The NCR Plus Eight strategy, by all means, “does not mean excluding the rest of the country,” says Austriaco.

    “It means prioritizing the NCR Plus Eight. There are still ongoing vaccinations to vaccinate the most at risk in the rest of the country and the distribution [of vaccines] now, from what I can get from the data, is about 65 percent to the NCR Plus Eight and 35 percent to the rest of the country,” he says.

    To achieve containment, about 40 to 50 percent of the population should be inoculated says Austriaco. Herd immunity, meanwhile, should at least 70 to 80 percent of the entire population, he says.

    “Containment will protect us against future surges, it will allow further reopening and it will allow ‘no mask’ gathering of vaccinated persons and I pointed out that outbreaks will still occur but they will not spread rapidly. So, the surge potential of the pandemic will be severely diminished,” he explains.

    Making a no-mask Christmas possible

    “It is really attainable at this time that we will reach containment if not herd immunity in the NCR Plus Eight by Christmas and this is something that we do together,” says Austriaco.

    As soon as containment is attained, the Government can relax minimum health standards. There will be no more requirements for mask, social distancing, if herd immunity is to be achieved, he points out.

    “In the same way, today, we do not test or quarantine people from measles because we already have herd immunity for measles in Manila, in the entire country. And I pointed out last week that we should encourage our kababayans to imagine a ‘no-mask Christmas,’ ” he said.  (LO/The MiNT)

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