Like any other kid who grew up during the 80s and 90s, I confess I got hooked on many of those weirdo cartoon figures way back then. The good guys often metamorphose to a more powerful being ready to pin the bad guy down – who by the way also transfigure to a different sort of more evil. In Nippon, Voltes V (the earliest version of Transformers) appeared on Japanese and Pinoy kids’ TV conquering evil by either conjuring to high tech metamorphosis. They Volt-In and/or Volt-out synchronically. And then there was He-Man, who ritually shout to mutate into a stronger, buffed-up protagonist who’d defeat any evil monster who gets in his way. Lion-O of the Thundercats, who with the help of his sword, become a bigger formidable feline humanoid. And of course, those cowabunga Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles – martial art kickers who thrash any chimera-looking antagonist in downtown USA. And who would ever forget The Uncanny X-Men during the 90s? Mutants who fight fellow oddities. I used to think Mutants were just a figment of one’s imagination. A mere child’s fantasy.
The Cambridge Dictionary explains mutation as ‘the way in which genes change and produce permanent differences; the permanent change of an organism or the changed organism itself’.
During my university days, I slowly got exposed to a mutation in the natural world.
In plants, mutations are sometimes surprisingly wonderful to observe. Especially when a mutant flower strikingly emerges from an entire inflorescence – such outstanding rarities, indeed. Or on foliage. Variegations, speckles, spots, or linear markings resulting from mutations make leaves antithetically conspicuous. (These days some plant crazy people go loony finding out mutated aroid species tagged with unbelievably astronomical prices).
Mutation in the insect world is also remarkable as curious forms deserve careful observation. Change of color patterns, or even iridescence or the tiniest tinge of mutation make a species superbly extraordinary.
Recently, the mutation we often heard of via newscasts is not what the human species wanted at all. It’s the type of mutation which mongers anxiety, catastrophes or even causing death. CoViD-19 has now been reported to have mutated to a more 70% transmissible strain – with the name B.1.1.7 (sounds like B1 of the Bananas in Pajamas duo).
Earlier this year the UK made headlines as one of Europe’s most devastated with deaths caused by the sinister virus. Even their own Prince Charles got infected with Corona. (Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that have crown-like thorns on their surface. The Latin word for crown is coronam). The heir to the British throne got ‘crowned’, in a very peculiar way.
When the UK announced it has a different variant of the CoViD-19, many countries from continental Europe scrammed and banned flights or transport to and fro the British Isles. Kilometers of lined up lorries were either stuck in Calais (France) or in Dover (England). Panic buying in many grocery stores were seen within the UK as the food supply chain from mainland Europe was abruptly halted. More chaos resulted as the mutant virus gripped on.
The new strain even placed the British PM into an awkward position as he earlier promised that restrictions early this year would make the Holiday Seasons in the UK more breathable.
The reality is – the virus is out of control. In fact earlier this month the UK started vaccinating the near-centenarians, and those more at risk to contract the virus.
But now what? A new variant? A Speedy Gonzales CoViD strain? Even concerns arose that the British strain might evolve to become resistant to the newly rolled-out vaccines.
One scientist compared the scenario as ‘a tight running race and the rules keep on changing’. The virus has evidently outpaced us.
Some scientists even fear CoVid’s shape-shifting ability – by vaccinating millions of people, the virus may be forced to adapt or mutate which may help evade or resist the immune response.
As far as South Africa, the new variant has already raged on and as developing, reports came in Denmark already reported 33 new strain cases and B.1.1.7 hitchhiked on a woman from London’s Heathrow Aiport and landed in Frankfurt – the first known case in Deutschland. Japan, Spain, and France have now detected the new strain in their respective countries.
Meanwhile, some euro countries have already set the third lockdown. Germany which reported a record high of daily CoViD deaths has already imposed it. In an emotional speech, the German Chancellor asked the citizens to skip packed gatherings during the holidays as the number of daily exponential infections already skyrocketed.
Austria is now on its third lockdown from 26th of December until the 24th of January and with the same restrictions against mass gatherings etc. Switzerland, Italy, and even France have already raised the red flags for lockdowns as well.
These countries are now asserting public health and safety protocols as the pandemic lingers on whilst awaiting a vaccine roll-out possibly before the end of this year.
In Pinas, as CoViD daily cases have not subsided some areas are still under quarantine measures. On November 30, President Duterte announced that the quarantine measures in Metro Manila, Batangas, Davao City, Iligan, Iloilo City, Lanao del Sur, and Tacloban will remain as they are until 31st Dec. Davao del Norte was upgraded to a GCQ due to its high positivity rate, while Bacolod was downgraded to an MGCQ. The rest of the country will remain under MGCQ.
Young children and vulnerable senior citizens have been restricted to visit crowded areas or even malls. The able-bodied are obliged to wear face shields and masks in/around public areas.
Palawan felt the effects of the pandemic as the arrival of tourists significantly dropped early on this year. Flights and travel bookings canceled. The whole provincial tourism paralyzed. Those who have worked directly or indirectly with the tourism sector have been jobless since April this year as jobs were scraped off. Local tour guides switched to selling foodies to make ends meet. Desperate ones resorted to borrowing from loan sharks to pay debts. Our neighbor in Sandiwa, Puerto Princesa who used to work as a cook in a restaurant in one of Puerto’s malls now works as a laborer in construction work. The severely affected local tourism players are now in survival mode.
A vaccine roll-out might be ‘the light at the end of this dark tunnel’ as news came out of CoViD-19 vaccine produced by Sinovac Biotech Ltd in China. However, Phil. Dept of Health has been criticized as it defended and continued its keenness on Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine despite its 50% efficacy.
In comparison, US drugmaker Pfizer Inc. developed with German biotech company BioNTech SE, and US biotech company Moderna Inc., boasts of over 90% effectiveness and have been authorized for emergency use in the US and some countries in Europe.
The Philippines is eyeing to buy 25 million doses of Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine, which is still undergoing late-stage trials.
Philippine lawmakers were quick to express alarm over Sinovac’s coronavirus shot efficacy rate of 50%, with Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri calling it “totally unacceptable and total waste” of funds.
As the year 2020 ends, will humankind react quicker to CoViD’s malevolence containing this perverse widespread outbreak? and hopefully, eradicating its anomaly while bringing back normality into our lives?
Alike Neo in the Matrix – as he supernaturally leaned backward dodging bullets as they flew by him, will humans avert this action of CoViD’s fast aberration urgently as possible?
(Or we may find ourselves flabbergasted with another CoViD miscreation by then).
As the pandemic battle wages on, we only hope solutions would present themselves at the soonest time possible with more lives saved rather than lost as we enter the year 2021.