University New ‘fact-resistant’ coronavirus variant detected among rich Filipinos who travel too much
University New ‘fact-resistant’ coronavirus variant detected among rich Filipinos who travel too much
New ‘fact-resistant’ coronavirus variant detected among rich Filipinos who travel too much
April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

A new coronavirus variant has been detected in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) announced in a press conference today, April 1, raising the country’s tally of “unique” variants to two amid a recent surge in COVID-19 cases that saw the country setting new highs.

The new variant, called B.0.8.0, was detected by the Philippine Genome Center in a set of samples taken from a group of travellers who returned to Metro Manila from an out-of-town trip. Though DOH stressed that there is insufficient data to say whether the new variant is a cause for concern, doctors who examined the patients hinted otherwise.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in previous patients,” Dr. Stey Holmes, a member of DOH’s technical advisory group, told reporters during the briefing. “They were, to put it bluntly, not very bright.”

Holmes explained that the infected individuals, whom he said “came from a higher socioeconomic status,” exhibited traits that they currently describe as “fact-resistant” as they “don’t seem to understand how severe the ongoing pandemic is.”

Copper masks, essential oils

After conducting interviews for contact tracing purposes, the doctors discovered that the patients had not been following proper protocols throughout their trip, with the exception of doing rapid testing prior to boarding flights. 

“I don’t understand how we got the virus,” Caladka Ren, one of the beachgoers said. “Before we flew out, we all got tested—I’ve done it like 20 times na nga eh. It was always negative naman.” 

When asked whether they observed protocols while on the island, Ren was visibly confused. “I believe that wearing a mask is, like, an infringement of my civil liberties. However, I did buy this copper one my friends recommended on Instagram. It even has a slit to help me breathe better while wearing it. Cool, no?” 

Ren added that he only wore the mask for selfies to advertise the product but took it off since no one was looking. 

Doctors also found that the tourists were very invested in alternative medicine, pointing to “research” they received from their relatives. “My tita was sharing these weird Facebook videos that were clearly fake, but she said they were legit, supported by doctors and all daw, so I believed her,” shared Bob Tang, a resident of an upper-class Alabang subdivision. “She even forwarded links to our family Viber group chat.”

“We’re really big on alternative medicine,” admitted Dinah Nagbasa, Tang’s mother and a “licensed naturopath”. She adds, “Every time we go out of town, we always remember bringing essential oils. Sometimes we even forget to bring extra masks.”

Tang recounted that while they were on the island, he began doing steam inhalation therapy, or tuob, in his room after he started feeling sick. Not getting the results he wanted, he instead tried inhaling essential oils, which smelled good but also did not work.

“I got so desperate, man. I was supposed to drink Ivermectin”—a topical medication for parasites—“but I ran out na pala. My mom suggested I drink kerosene instead, but I told her that was dangerous. You’re only supposed to clean your mask with that,” he furthered.

Asked on whether he would consider the vaccine instead, he said, “Vaccines are just ways for Big Pharma to profit off of people who don’t know the truth. At least I’m sure my relatives, who are into networking, are not trying to take my money away from me.”

Needs further research

Other health experts, however, cast doubt on DOH’s hypothesis, supposing instead that the cognitive limitations observed among patients might be unrelated to the new strain.

“What if they were already like that before they got infected? It’s not unlikely that their inability to accept scientific facts might have made them vulnerable to the virus in the first place,” Dr. Barry Pani, a researcher from the Manila Institute of Technology (MIT), said after the press conference.

Pani also called out the patients, whom he argued placed themselves in a dangerous situation in the first place. “These people can afford to fly out to Boracay for a weekend getaway while a global pandemic is going on but can’t somehow afford to educate themselves,” he added. “I guess money and privilege can’t buy critical thinking.”

Ren, in a separate interview, defended herself against ridicule, pointing out how government officials have been out on leisure during the pandemic but were never reprimanded for it. “I should be allowed to swim with dolphins, too.”

The state health department clarified that they were still having their findings verified with the World Health Organization. In the meantime, they advised people to stay at home, follow safety protocols, and resist the urge to needlessly put themselves at risk for a good time.