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Delta is now 'most common' COVID-19 variant in Philippines

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Delta is now 'most common' COVID-19 variant in Philippines
Residents in a compound in Brgy. Pinyahan, Quezon City which was placed under special concern lockdown due to COVID-19 cases receive food aid on Sept. 15, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health on Monday said the Delta has emerged as the most common variant of COVID-19 detected in the Philippines with 319 more cases. 

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a briefing that Delta now accounts for 24.2% of variant cases from the 12,530 samples sent for genome sequencing. 

The additional Delta infections came from 374 samples tested on September 18 — 297 of which are local cases, 18 returning Filipinos from overseas, and four still being verified. 

Vergeire said the low number of samples tested was due to reduced manpower at the Philippine Genome Center, after some of its personnel went in quarantine for two weeks. 

The PGC has a capacity to process 750 per week, a number that officials have admitted is not enough. Last week, it said it would scale down processing COVID-19 tests to focus more on detecting variants.

Apart from the Delta, there were also 13 more cases of the Alpha, or that first seen in the United Kingdom and nine of the Beta that was first identified in South Africa. 

Vergeire said there has been a "gradual increase" in proportion of variant cases detected at the national level since first reporting infections early this year. 

In February, she bared variants of concern only accounted for 22.9% of samples collected. By March, it was up to 82.8%, and in August, was at 97.7%.

"The increased proportion of these variants can be attributed to their increased transmissibility," Vergeire said. "However, sampling methodology also affects these proportions as samples from target areas or populations are prioritized more."

She added that other than factors from purposive sampling, samples sequenced per month varies as well due to limited resources. 

The World Health Organization on August 31 said it can now consider the Delta as the "most dominant" variant in the country, which also suggested there is now community transmission.

Delta has been identified to be driving a surge in infections not just in the Philippines but in neighboring countries as well. 

Health authorities have been reporting five-digit case increases for weeks now, with the highest seen on September 11 with 26,331 new infections. 

DELTA VARIANT DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH PHILIPPINE GENOME CENTER
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