By ALFRED G. GABOT
Editor in Chief
MANILA/WASHINGTON/GENEVA – Despite prolonged travel ban from India and neighboring countries, and now Indonesia and Malaysia, the deadly Delta variant of the new coronavirus cases has reached the Philippines triggering concern and fears as three of 35 persons who initially tested positive for the variant had died.
At press time, experts at the Department of Health warned that the Delta variant could have had local transmission and there is a possibility that there are other undetected cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a global warning as more cases of the variant have been detected while the Center for Communicable Diseases in the United States acknowledged that at least 80 percent of new cases are of the deadlier variant.
Globally, the novel coronavirus has killed at least 4,119,920 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, out of 191,365,730 cases, although the vast majority have recovered.
This as the Philippines’ total recorded COVID-19 cases hit 1,513,396 on July 19, after the DOH confirmed fresh infections, while the death toll stood at 26,786, while recoveries are totaled 1,439,049.
President Rodrigo Duterte warned that the Philippines may have to reimpose stricter restrictions as he ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) and local governments to be steadfast in enforcing health protocols.
“The reported local cases in the country is a call for serious alarm and concern,” Duterte said in his weekly briefing in Malacanang with Cabinet secretaries.
“We may need to reimpose stricter restrictions to avoid mass gatherings and avoid super spreader event,” he added.
Duterte said some Asian countries such as Indonesia were already under stricter restrictions due to the Delta variant.
“I urge the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and the PNP to implement the existing protocols with greater urgency and necessity. It is only by imposing these restrictions that we can fight the threat of Delta variant,” Duterte said.
Duterte also urged the LGUs to intensify their vaccine information and education campaign to convince more people to get themselves vaccinated.
“The importance of vaccines, you must get the vaccine or you die,” said Duterte.
This developed as the DOH reported that eight Filipinos who have supposedly recovered from the highly contagious Delta variant tested positive again for the disease after they underwent RT-PCR retesting.
Of the eight active Delta variant cases, four are in Cagayan de Oro, one is in Manila, another one is in Misamis Oriental, while two others are Filipinos who arrived from abroad, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire disclosed.
“Lahat sila ay walang sintomas. Sila ay mino-monitor ngayon hanggang matapos nila ang 14-day quarantine,” Vergeire said.
In Geneva, WHO said the Delta variant is expected to become the dominant strain of the virus over the coming months, pointing out that it already accounts for more than three-quarters of sequenced specimens in many major countries.
“It is expected that it will rapidly out-compete other variants and become the dominant circulating lineage over the coming months,” the UN health agency said.
“We have seen and heard in recent news about the spike of Covid-19 cases in other countries, including our neighbor Indonesia, due to the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus,” Duterte said.
He cited the Covid-19 situation in Indonesia which, according to media reports, has averaged 49,435 new cases, and more than 1,000 deaths a day for the past week.
Based on the DOH report, the Delta variant is “60 percent more transmissible than the usual Alpha variant (B 117 UK lineage).”
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the 16 additional cases of Delta variant have been detected since last week – three cases in the National Capital Region, 10 cases in Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), and two cases in Region 6 (Western Visayas).
The DOH said some of the local cases of Delta, or the B.1.617.2 coronavirus variant, were recorded in Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, Antique, and Pampanga.
Vice President Leni Robredo said the actual number could be higher than the initial 35 recorded cases of the Delta variant.
The latest casualty was a 58-year old female from Pandacan, Manila who died on June 28 but was reported only on July 16 together with the two other fatalities.
The two other deceased are a 78-year-old female from Baybay, Antique who died on May 30, and a 63-year old male MV Athens crew member who died on May 19, she said.
Davao City continued to log the most number of fresh COVID-19 cases at 224, according to independent research group OCTA.
Quezon City has the second most number of new COVID-19 cases at 116, followed by Cebu City with 95, according to data from OCTA.