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On Side Effects, Travel Bans, And Side Effects: COVID-19 Updates To Start 2021 With

Be informed as we brace for the second year of the COVID crisis

We can't believe it either.


It's been more than a year since news of a novel coronavirus took the world by surprise, and in just a couple of months from now in March, it'll be the beginning of the Philippines' second year of life under lockdown. 


(Let that sink in for a moment or two). 


Indefinite quarantine has everyone suffering in so many different ways that no one really wants to visualize the next 12 months being an extension of the train wreck that was 2020. But with recent developments on the pandemic, vaccines to combat the deadly disease, and the activities we must continue to live without, it looks like we're going to have to take a deep breath and prepare to ride things out for little while longer.


So without further ado, we round up all the COVID-19 updates to guide you as you get in the groove for 2021.


It's tough for now, but we have our fingers crossed that we'll soon be dancing to a happier, funkier, more upbeat groove this year!


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Philippine COVID-19 updates

When the UK was the first country to detect a new and more contagious strain of the coronavirus in December, the question on everyone's minds was if it had made its way to the Philippines.

The answer is yes. It has. 


However, local authorities haven't quite pinned down when and how it got here, if it's spread, areas where it's spread the most, and how to best treat and isolate patients that have been infected by it. (In fact, it wasn't local authorities that detected the presence of the new strain to begin with; it was Hong Kong health officials tasked with testing overseas workers that did. They discovered that a Philippine resident who had traveled to Hong Kong from Manila was infected with the new strain).


The silver lining is that there is no evidence suggesting that the new strain causes more serious illness. The biggest issue that it poses and that's been studied is that it is more transmissible; there are higher chances of getting it from an infected person and giving it to other people. 


What does that imply?

Well, because of a faster infection rate, everyone must continue to be vigilant and practice all healthy and hygiene protocols, perhaps even more strictly than we did in the past months. Staying at home, avoiding unnecessary social contact, obeying physical distancing measures, and following hand hygiene are still our best bets for staying safe despite the lack of information about the new strain. 


Earlier this week, the Department of Health said that it was hoping to analyze results from swab tests of local residents that traveled back to the Philippines from other countries in the next days. Health officials were expecting to learn if these travelers were infected with the new strain.


Know, too, that another contagious mutation was discovered in South Africa. This new strain is not the same as the one found in the UK. 


As of this writing, the Philippines has recorded a total of 482,000 COVID cases, 449,000 recovered patients, and 9,356 deaths. 


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Vaccine updates, controversies

Several countries started rolling out vaccines among the general population in December last year. The UK was the first ever country to make vaccines available. Soon, the United States, Canada, Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, Costa Rica, Croatia, Hungary, Finland, Malta, Mexico, Kuwait, Israel, Italy, Greece, Poland, Oman, Romania, Russia, The Czech Republic, Cyprus, Belarus, Spain, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia among other nations followed suit. 


There are currently three major vaccine labels that have been leading the COVID immunization race: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which we wrote about here, and a third and less widely used variety, Sputnik V from Russia. 


In many countries, the first to get vaccinated were medical front liners and government officials. Only a few low-risk citizens have been vaccinated, and no mass vaccination activities serving the general public have been carried out just yet. Indonesia might the first country to organize a mass vaccination program using Sinovac, a China-developed drug. 


In the Philippines, the outlook for vaccination availability (and legitimacy) has been much bleaker. (In fact, it was projected the country would be the very last in the region to recover from the COVID crisis and that Filipinos must brace for an even deeper recession in 2021). 


In case you need reminding, the country made international headlines when it was revealed that members of the Duterte administration, as well as a number of presidential security, were vaccinated with a smuggled vaccine from China. The vaccine had not been approved by health and safety bodies in the country, and its side effects are unknown. An investigation into how the vaccines arrived in the country and who exactly administered and received them is ongoing. 


The current administration has not yet finalized its plans for which vaccination to purchase. As of December, it was looking to strike a deal with the Chinese for Sinovac, but Filipinos are wary about drugs developed by China. Most of their hesitation stems from a recent update implicating China for a second vaccine it produced called Sinopharm, a drug found to have at least 73 side effects including raised blood pressure and loss of taste and vision.


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Non-Chinese vaccines' side effects 

But even non-China developed vaccines are not without their downsides. 


Even the Pfizer vaccine have posed side effects, but none of which have been life-threatening and disruptive of day to day activities. 


For Pfizer, some of the side effects to watch out for include swelling or pain at the point of injection, tiredness, fever or headache, muscular or joint pain, almost all of which are common occurrences post-vaccination for most vaccines. Take note, too, that some of these side effects may be more apparent after the receiving the second dose of the vaccine. 


Moderna, on the other hand, has yet to report its list side effects. Know, however, that among patients that have received the Moderna vaccine and had cosmetic enhancements (i.e.: fillers) done to their faces, a couple of them experienced facial swelling as a side effect. So if you've had any kind of aesthetic procedures done, it's best to know what is and isn't safe for you, COVID vaccine-wise. 


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Travel bans 

Ah yes, the two words that the globe trotter would hate to hear again and again in 2021.


With the world COVID situation not under control, traveling for leisure is not going to resume any time soon. The tourism industry will continue to bear the brunt of travel bans and for the travel enthusiast, that means staying put at home for an unspecified amount of time. It sucks, but, it's better than getting sick and not surviving your bout of COVID. 


According to this ABS-CBN article, the Philippine travel ban states the following: 

"Foreign travelers coming from the following are temporarily prohibited from entering the Philippines: United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, and Spain. Meanwhile, "returning Filipinos from these areas would have to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine even with a negative test."


It really isn't worth it to travel for fun at the moment, what with the risk of getting sick, the quarantine period, the limits placed on what you can and can't do while you're vacation in a different country, and the expenses that come with getting tested—and the anxiety that comes with testing positive!


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So what do you say?


Will 2021 be better than 2020? 


We hope so. 


Images from Pexels and Unsplash