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There Is Not Any Zero COVID Risk Place4
HSVG misson P.O. Box 206, Hagatna, GU 96932, USA
(01/17/2022)Did G20 learn lessons from the Delta? When the world welcomed 2022, many people were actually calling the new year “pandemic year 3.” If we have had it enough and do not want “pandemic year 4,” year 5 or year 6, let’s encourage Indonesian government step forward with its Group of 20 (G20) presidency to call for an international campaign helping people around the globe fearlessly live with the coronavirus and adopt the new normal as soon as possible. Quite a number of public health experts had advised before COVID vaccines became available that the human society was inevitably going to live with the coronavirus for a while and only sustainable measures would help everybody get through the pandemic. Unfortunately, most governments , with certain high-profile scientists and celebrities, put so much faith in lockdowns and looked forward to seeing COVID vaccines would work perfectly like a silver bullet even though, at that time, almost every vaccine developer was apparently targeting at lowering the numbers of severe patients and death victims instead of guaranteeing no infections after getting vaccinated. The Delta variant’s attack last summer was a wake-up call. Many countries, after enjoying reopening and sort of returning to normal brought by successful vaccine rollouts, experienced the Delta variant of the coronavirus caused a new wave of case surge, made hospitals overwhelmed again, and, sadly, took many people’s lives. It was the time that people started being familiar with a term called “breakthrough infections.” For example, Singapore surprisingly reported 28,901 new infections and 40 deaths in September 2021 after the vaccination rate was beyond 80%. Their COVID death number was zero in September 2020 when there was no CIVID vaccine at all. The epidemiological investigation and laboratory results concluded the changed situation was mainly caused by the Delta variant. Singapore was not the only place having a bad September last year. As of 31 August 2021, 80.43% of the residents 12 years and older were fully vaccinated, but Guam, an US island territory in the Pacific reported 47 COVID-related fatalities in September 2021. The figure was higher than the death number of 39 reported in September 2020 when no vaccine was available at that time. With almost the same land size, Guam is home of less than 200 thousand residents and Singapore has a population of 5.7 million. It means the highly-contagious Delta variant was influencing everywhere, no matter a busy and crowded city or a relaxed and rural place. In addition, obviously, vaccines alone are not suppressing the coronavirus. Europe’s experience reminded that nobody should drop his/her guard even thought the population reached a high vaccination rate. European Union has been leading its member states to keep precautions and try reopening in a gradual way. The continent has maintained a basically downward curve of infections as well as hospitalizations and deaths since its successful vaccine rollouts in association with well-managed medical capacity, even though the Delta variant did make a noticeable, but not really harmful, spike. However, it seemed that most parts of the world did not learn lessons from the Delta and implement proper measures when the Omicron came. The World Health Organization did not wait for sufficient morbidity and fatality data to be collected. Its warning message on the Omicron variant released late November last year triggered many countries’ panicked decisions of tightening COVID restrictions. It’s sad that South Africa’s variant identification efforts, which should have been appreciated, made its people punished by the almost worldwide travel ban. The wait wasn’t even long. Before last Christmas, at least three scientific researches caught the media’s attention and proved the Omicron variant may be much more contagious but it’s mostly causing mild cases. However, the chaos has hurt people. For example, Guam, which finally saw a little bit tourism recovery last November, immediately suffered from more than 5000 travel booking cancellations right after the Omicron panic widely spread. More variants will definitely come and we definitely do not want more chaos. While the Omicron has shown the new variants in the future are very likely to be less lethal and the COVID vaccines are actually promisingly reducing severe cases, plus the antiviral medicines are available, the whole world really needs a leadership that urges every jurisdiction to guide people fearlessly living with the virus by using more appropriate strategies to respond to every emerging variant. Let’s try to recall whether the system was encouraging people to get tested during the flu season to try to contain flu viruses. Were we worried so much when we experienced flu-like symptoms or got diagnosed as having flu? Wasn’t the goal of flu control to avoid severe complications and save people’s lives? The best tools helping us achieve the goal are always personal hygiene and flu vaccines although so-called “breakthrough infections” did happen to flu vaccines as well. COVID is not flu, but flu control experience could apply to COVID response, especially to the current situation of “pandemic year 3,” a year that G20 presidency returns to Asia, where people totally have no issue with wearing a mask and helped prove this measure could effectively prevent COVID spread. Indonesian government needs to work with its G20 partners and make history.(Published in The Jakarta Post on January 11, 2022) http://www.hsvg.org/hot_414422.html Did G20 learn lessons from Delta variant? 2022-01-17 2023-01-17
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(August 25, 2021)

There Is Not Any Zero COVID Risk Place

Many worldwide well-known experts and celebrities emphasized last year that vaccines would be the only solution to eradicate the COVID pandemic. Guam’s recent case surge and Palau’s latest confirmed cases flying in from Guam have proven “the wonder shot” theory may be not so right.

 

Government of Guam declared on July 29 that 80% of adults over 18 has been fully vaccinated and lifted all restrictions but mask mandate the next day. Unfortunately, Guam island community noticed the tested positive cases went up in the second week of August, followed by significant hospitalization increase. Although most of confirmed cases and hospitalized patients are unvaccinated individuals, obviously the Guam scenario does not support the so-called “herd immunity” hypothesis, which suggests a high vaccine coverage would protect the whole population including unvaccinated people.

 

Guam is actually not the only evidence that rejects the herd immunity hypothesis. Many overwhelmed hospitals in the US are recently also showing the world that the pursuit of herd immunity does not seem so realistic. In addition, research findings from the US, the UK and Israel have proven the current vaccines are very effective in reducing severe illness and deaths, however, instead of preventing infections. That is why many breakthrough cases have been seen around the world.

 

So, no COVID vaccines are the silver bullet. A high vaccine coverage, even like what Palau has achieved, may be still not the indestructible shield. Palauans should not consider the country a “zero” risk place, although Palau’s COVID risk is absolutely extremely low. Nobody should drop his/her guard, especially when many countries in the world are trying to find a proper reopening strategy after suffering from the impact of lockdown measures for more than one year.


While the whole world is not able to eradicate the coronavirus so far and no country can afford the lockdown any more either, Palauans are lucky to have a wise leader, Mr. President Whipps, leading the country’s reopening in a practical and vigilant way. What he needs most for the task is actually people’s support, which includes thoroughly following all preventive measures and immediately adapting to the healthy new normal. The impressively high vaccine coverage has offered Palauans confidence. Every Palauan’s a bit more contribution to the pandemic response could make Palau proud of being a role model for reopening in the post-COVID era.