No more face masks during Alert Level 0? Netizens raise threats of Deltacron

March 11, 2022 - 7:05 PM
Jeep passengers
People wearing face masks as protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ride on a jeepney, in Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2022. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

The Department of Health is eyeing the shift to “Alert Level 0” amid the possible threat of a new variant of COVID-19 called Deltacron.

According to reports, Deltacron has combined elements of Delta and Omicron variants.

This hybrid version has been detected in 17 patients in the United States and Europe.

So far, there’s not much information yet about Deltacron’s transmissibility and severity to patients.

READ: Variant that combines Delta and Omicron identified; dogs sniff out virus with high accuracy 

There’s also no detected case of it yet in the Philippines.

On Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is eyeing to de-escalate the country into Alert Level 0 amid the downward trend of COVID-19 cases.

“We have had cases below 1,000 for six days, but hopefully we could bring it down to 500 or even less on a daily basis so that we could…who knows…maybe we could deescalate to alert level 0,” Duque said in a briefing on March 11.

Before this happens, the health secretary pointed out that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has to discuss several factors first.

“Among the questions are, under alert level 0, can masks be removed? Can hand hygiene not be followed? Or are ventilations sufficient?’” he said.

Duque assured that the members of the expert panel and the Technical Advisory Group of the IATF-EID will be studying these factors and questions in the coming days before making their recommendations for an Alert Level 0.

As of March 10, there are 592 additional COVID-19 infections, thus bringing the total cases to 3,668,940.

Of the total, there are 47,173 active COVID-19 cases, 3,564,509 recoveries and 57,258 deaths.

Deltacron, pandemic worries

Several social media users opposed the proposal to downgrade to Alert Level 0 and the removal of the face mask policy. They criticized the government for supposed “complacency.”

“Bad advice. Keep your masks on guys!” a Facebook user said.

“Masyadong complacent, huwag po tayong magdali kung ayaw niyong magkasurge,” another online user tweeted.

Others cited pollution, allergies and other illnesses that wearing face masks could prevent.

“Yeah keeping my mask on. You see how black it turns after a day of biking?” a Twitter user pointed out.

“I’ve always kept stock of and wore face masks because of my allergies,” another Twitter user said.

Some concerned Filipinos also raised the new threat of Deltacron in other countries.

“Deltacron is waving though,” one Twitter user shared.

Others expressed their frustration over the existence of the hybrid variant.

“Ayan pagkatapos ng Delta at Omicron, naging Deltacron yawa naman oh di na natapos tong COVID,” one user said.

In an interview with ANC, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje assured the public that the country should already be prepared to deal with Deltacron.

“I think based on our experience in the past and many experiences that we have gathered throughout the response in the pandemic, we should be ready to face another variant of concern,” Cabotaje was quoted as saying in a report.

What we know about Deltacron

Krutika Kuppalli, a member of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 technical team, previously took to Twitter to quell fears of a super variant.

“Okay people let’s make this a teachable moment, there is no such thing as #Deltacron (Just like there is no such thing as #Flurona),” Kuppalli said.

“#Omicron and #Delta did NOT form a super variant. This is likely [a] sequencing artifact (lab contamination of Omicron fragments in a Delta specimen),” she added.

The news of a new variant came from virologist Leondios Kostrikis from the University of Cyprus in Nicosia last January.

Kostrikis announced on their local television that his research group identified several SARS-CoV-2 genomes that featured Delta and Omicron genes.

Early this week, researchers said hybrid versions of the coronavirus that combine genes from the Delta and Omicron variants – dubbed “Deltacron” – have been identified in at least 17 patients in the United States and Europe.

Philippe Colson of IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseille, France, lead author of a report on Tuesday posted on medRxiv ahead of peer review, that it is too soon to know whether Deltacron infections will be very transmissible or cause severe disease.