'Bold moves' sought against the Delta variant

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
'Bold moves' sought against the Delta variant
An elderly woman holds a "Got Vaccinated" sign after receiving her second dose of COVID-19 in Marikina City on July 22, 2021.
The STAR / Boy Santos

Malacañang needs to implement bolder steps to arrest the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country such as restricting the movement of unvaccinated citizens, a Palace adviser said on July 24.

In a televised high-level virtual meeting with President Duterte, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said restricting the movement of unvaccinated individuals would allow a safe reopening of the economy.?

By reducing the mobility of individuals with no vaccine protection against COVID-19, Concepcion said they would not be allowed to enter certain establishments, eat out or move around the country.

The Go Negosyo founder said this is similar to what is being implemented in France on the premise that unvaccinated individuals pose a risk to public health.

Hearing his suggestion at the meeting were Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases chairman and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos, various medical experts and key private sector leaders.

Concepcion said such bold moves are necessary for government to exert pressure on individuals who refuse to be vaccinated amid the threat of the Delta variant, which experts said could be five to eight times more contagious than the original COVID-19 infection.

He also suggested that incentives be provided for businesses that aim to fully vaccinate their employees, through increased operational capacity to help them recover losses from the impact of the pandemic.

As for vaccinated individuals, they may be incentivized by allowing greater mobility and ease of travel including removal of the testing requirement, Concepion said.

He expressed hope that Duterte and the IATF also see these bold moves as necessary steps to contain the Delta variant.

“It might be one of the good news that can possibly come up as we approach President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on Monday, (July 26),” he said.

Concepcion made it clear that he opposes the idea of imposing another lockdown because the country cannot afford another setback in the economy, especially in the fourth quarter which should be the strongest quarter for the private sector.

“If the coming fourth quarter will be a disaster because of the Delta variant, then the entire 2022 will face a severe challenge,” Concepcion said.

55 new ‘Delta’ cases

On Sunday, July 25, the Department of Health (DOH) reported the detection of 55 new Delta variant cases, bringing to 119 the total cases of the highly transmissible B.1.617.2 variant in the country.

The DOH said that of the 55 new Delta variant cases, 37 are local cases, 17 are returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) while one case is still being verified. It said one of them already died while the rest had recovered.

Of the 37 local cases, 14 were from Calabarzon, eight from Northern Mindanao, six had an indicated address in the National Capital Region (NCR), six from Central Luzon, two from Davao region (one in Davao City and one in Tagum,Davao del Norte) and one from the Ilocos.

Following the detection of 23 local cases of Delta variant in recent weeks, the DOH declared on Friday, July 23, a local transmission of the highly transmissible COVID-19 strain in the country.

In a press briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire 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 any more,” she noted.

The local transmission of 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 that 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, July 22. Six of them are from Bataan, two from Laguna, one each from Manila and Taguig City and two from Pasig City.

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

Duque added that only 0.6% 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 Delta variant while 60 percent in Thailand.

Aside from the Delta variant first detected in India, the DOH also reported 94 new Alpha (B.1.1.7 first detected in the United Kingdom), 179 Beta (B.1.351 from South Africa) and nine P.3 (from the Philippines) variant cases in the latest batch of whole genome sequencing.

Of the additional 94 Alpha variant cases detected, 87 are local cases, one is an ROF, and six are currently being verified if local or ROF.

Based on the case line list, one remains active, two cases have died, and 91 cases have been tagged as recovered. The total number of Alpha variant cases in the country is now at 1,775.

 For the 179 new Beta variant cases, the DOH said 168 were local cases, four were ROFs, and seven are currently being verified. Two of the cases are still active, one has died, 175 have been tagged as recovered and one is currently being verified. The total Beta variant cases are now at 2,019.

Meanwhile, all nine additional P.3 variant cases are tagged as recovered by the DOH.

The DOH urged local government units to immediately contain observed case increases through granular lockdowns and stronger prevent-detect-isolate-treat and reintegrate (PDITR) implementation.

Public and private sectors are also asked to ensure active case finding, aggressive contact tracing, immediate isolation or quarantine, and compliance to minimum public health standards in their respective localities and even workplaces.

“We also call on our community members who have become exposed or developed COVID-19 signs or symptoms to immediately isolate and reach out to their Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams or BHERTs for appropriate medical management,” DOH said. – With Edith Regalado

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