Metro Manila mayors hold emergency meeting on COVID-19 Delta variant

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Metro Manila mayors hold emergency meeting on COVID-19 Delta variant
Individuals under the A4 priority group are inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine as the local government of Quezon City launches their QC ProtekTODO Bakuna Nights program at the city hall open grounds on June 16, 2021. The program aims to inoculate working individuals who cannot visit vaccination sites during the day due to their work schedules.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila mayors held an emergency meeting Saturday night to discuss the detection of Delta variant of coronavirus cases in the Philippines. 

This was confirmed to Philstar.com by Metro Manila Development Authority chair and Metro Manila Council presiding officer Benhur Abalos, who said that no major changes would be made on the local government level for now. 

As it currently stands, the Department of Health has detected 17 cases of the more contagious variant first identified in India. 

"There are [detected] cases, but DOH has monitored them and I think they have contained it as per their report," Abalos said in a phone call. 

"[The meeting] was just to inform everyone about what is happening."

Present at the meeting of the capital region's local chief executives were vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, health chief Francisco Duque, and interior undersecretary Epimaco Densing. 

Local governments were asked to brief their contact tracers about the variant and have any possible cases of the new variant be tested immediately, the MMDA chief said, adding that contact tracing and testing would remain top priority. 

"As of now we have sufficient contact tracers, we have 5,000 distributed among 17 LGUs aside from the ones they hired. Right now that's sufficient for the next two months," he said. "What is important is to contain the borders coming from abroad."

Earlier Monday, the Department of Health said that the spread of the virus in high-risk areas was not necessarily due to the new variant. 

“Let us not say it’s just because of the variants. There are a multitude of factors,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said as she pointed to complacency in the implementation of health rules as one contributing factor.

Metro Manila Council: 'What we have is enough'

Abalos said that the existing policies and quarantine enforcement were "sufficient" to combat the spread of the variant for the time being, adding that the detection would not yet affect the quarantine status in Metro Manila. 

"So far there aren't any changes yet. Whatever was discussed and implemented before is still okay...Our economy is starting again and opening. That is okay as long as people would really practice minimum health protocols, that should really be emphasized," he said. 

"Our hospitals and ICUs are okay and we've prepared PPEs and ventilators...What is important for the local governments now is to really make sure that those who are quarantined will really be isolated in quarantine. They can't go outside and buy whatever."

READ: PNP chief says strict enforcement to continue to curb spread of Delta variant

The Philippine National Police said earlier that its strict enforcement of quarantine protocols will continue moving forward. A total of 67,609 quarantine violations were recorded by the police in early June, the DILG said earlier. 

Dr. Edsel Salvana, who is also a member of the health department’s technical advisory group, was quoted as saying in his presentation at Saturday's meeting that the variant was 60% more transmissible. 

"He said that this one is really different...maybe they haven't fully studied it yet but one thing is certain, it is more contagious than the others," Abalos said. 

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization, said in an earlier statement that the Delta variant may emerge as the dominant coronavirus variant globally.

To date, the Philippines has recorded 1.36 million coronavirus infections, 55,847 of whom are still classified as active cases. 

"What is important is we should always be vigilant and we should always be cautious," Abalos said. "It's better to be prepared right now for anything." 

— with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico and Xave Gregorio

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