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DOH confirms Delta local transmission

Shiela Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
DOH confirms Delta local transmission
At a press briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire yesterday said having local transmission means they can still see the “linkages” between and among cases, compared to having community transmission.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — Following the detection of 23 local cases of the Delta variant in recent weeks, the Department of Health (DOH) has declared that there is now local transmission of this highly transmissible COVID-19 variant.

At a press briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire yesterday said having local transmission means they can still see the “linkages” between and among cases, compared to having community transmission.

“In local transmission, you are still seeing the relationship of different cases among each other. When there is community transmission, there are many cases and you do not see the linkage anymore,” she noted.

The local transmission of the Delta variant was determined following the “phylogenetic analysis” conducted by the University of the Philippines and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) and the case investigation by the DOH Epidemiology Bureau and the regional and local epidemiology and surveillance units.

They found clusters of Delta variant cases that were linked to other local cases, thus exhibiting local transmission.

Last July 16, the DOH had reported the detection of 16 new Delta variant cases, including 11 local cases.

Twelve more local cases were reported on Thursday. Six of them are from Bataan, two from Laguna, one each from Manila and Taguig City and two from Pasig City.

These bring to 47 the total number of Delta variant cases sequenced in the country.

Not dominant

But according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Delta is not the predominant variant found in the Philippines, compared to Malaysia and Thailand which are seeing surges in cases.

Duque added that only 0.6 percent of the COVID-19 positive swab samples sequenced by the PGC are infected with Delta variant in the country.

In Malaysia, 100 percent of samples sequenced yielded the Delta variant, while in Thailand it was 60 percent.

“I believe this is somehow helping why our (COVID-19) cases are not that many… But of course, this should not lead us to (complacency),” he underscored.

The health chief admitted that currently, the country’s genome sequencing capacity is limited, so the real extent of cases is not known.

“That is why we monitor the cases every day,” he maintained.

Clustering

Of the latest 12 local Delta variant cases, two are clustered in Calamba, Laguna – a 58-year-old father and his 29-year-old son.

The 58-year-old mother had died of COVID-19.

According to DOH Regional director for Calabarzon Eduardo Janairo, an investigation is now ongoing to determine how the father and son got the infection because they do not have a history of travel abroad.

He assured the DOH that the local government unit and contact tracers are now trying to identify the people in the community who could have come in contact with them from two to three weeks ago.

“It (contact tracing) is actually difficult knowing that the family was not going out of their home that much,” he said.

The son – a student – was doing online classes. The other members of the family are working from home.

Janairo added that the primary reason why any member of the family goes out was to buy groceries and medicines.

“We have to be very careful now that we have identified the presence of the Delta variant in the region. I encourage all residents to strictly follow health protocols and avoid unnecessary movement outside of your residence to avoid contracting the virus,” he maintained.

Earlier cases

Janairo said there are three cases of the Delta variant – two in Cavite and one in Batangas – which were recorded almost three months ago.

“Actually, there were three before, but they were not part of the community. Which means (the Delta variant) was not found in the areas where they live, but they came from outside the country. So, they went to their areas after they were quarantined,” Janairo said in Filipino, clarifying these could not constitute

local transmission because they were overseas Filipino workers from the Middle East.

Misamis Oriental Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano, meanwhile, directed provincial health officials to closely monitor Delta variant cases.

Emano issued the directive after a COVID-19 positive resident in the province’s eastern city was found infected with the Delta variant.

He said that the resident was an employee who reportedly infected all members of the family, prompting health officials to send their samples for genome analysis in Manila.

The samples were among the random samples which recorded the presence of six Delta variant infections in Misamis Oriental – five in Cagayan de Oro City and one in Gingoog City.

Emano, however, said that the patient, along with other members of the family, had already recovered.

‘Technical issues’

Based on DOH’s case bulletin for COVID-19, there was a record 6,845 cases yesterday – the highest this month – bringing overall cases to 1,537,097.

Data showed on July 2, the daily tally was 6,192, while on July 17, it was 6,040 cases and 6,560 on July 21.

However, no death was reported yesterday, which the DOH had attributed to “technical issues encountered in COVIDKaya,” the reporting system for COVID-19 cases.

Deaths due to COVID-19 remain a small percentage of the total mortality in the Philippines in the first quarter of 2021, but this has increased as more cases and variants were detected.

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the preliminary number of registered deaths from January to March 2021 reached 170,467. This was 17 percent higher than the total deaths of 145,773 in the same period last year.

Of the total number of deaths in the first quarter, 2.38 percent was due to COVID-19.

The National Capital Region (NCR) posted 21,516 deaths in January to March, up 12.4 percent from the 19,150 deaths in the same period last year. Metro Manila remains to be the epicenter of COVID-19.

PSA said increases were recorded in 12 out of 17 of its cities and municipalities, with the highest increase in Pateros at 30.4 percent.

Significant increases were also reported in Pasig at 29.7 percent and Makati at 27.1 percent.

Declines in the registered deaths during the period were recorded in Muntinlupa, Las Piñas, Parañaque and Manila.

Meanwhile, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) wants the health sector to come up with a contingency plan every time there is a possibility of a COVID-19 surge, as bringing back restrictions would affect the country’s economic recovery.

During the Laging Handa briefing on Friday, NEDA undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said the economy will be affected yet again after President Duterte placed Metro Manila and four other provinces under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions.

Metro Manila, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Davao de Oro and Davao del Norte are under GCQ with heightened restrictions until July 31.

“Supposedly, the restriction that we are imposing will buy us time so we can increase our health system capacity and the health sector will come up with this plan to address the increase in surge in case it happens,” Edillon said.

Should the GCQ with heightened restrictions be extended after July 31, Edillon admitted that this would impact the much-needed recovery of the economy, which the government claims is “on the mend.”

NEDA said the second quarter performance of the economy is in a “better situation” than last year when gross domestic product shrank by a record 16.9 percent. – Ed Amoroso, Louise Maureen Simeon, Gerry Lee Gorit

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