Philippines sees 380 new Delta cases from late samples
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health on Monday reported 380 new cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 from samples collected in the past months.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Delta accounted for 50.94% of the 746 samples sent for whole genome sequencing last week.
She added the samples date back from March up to this month. "We are doing retrospective sampling to trace the beginnings of the Delta variant introduction in the country as well as the earliest cases," Vergeire added in a briefing.
The distribution of new Delta cases per region was not made available.
But the health official said infections from the variant now make up 30.29% or 4,811 of 15,882 samples with lineages.
Authorities declared local transmission of the Delta in July. A month later, the Philippines saw a new surge in coronavirus cases that experts attributed to the variant.
Cases have since been on the decline, with DOH downgrading the Philippines to "low risk" classification for COVID-19 this October and government easing more restrictions.
Vergeire said there were also 166 cases of the Beta or the variant first detected in South Africa, as well as 104 of the Alpha or that originally identified in United Kingdom.
To date, the Beta variant accounts for 21.91% or 3,479 samples sent for genome sequencing, and Alpha with 19.15% or 3,042 cases.
New variant case
The additional variant infections on Monday saw a new case: or a 34-year-old Filipino with the B.1.1.318 variant.
Vergeire sought to assure that this was no reason for panic, with the variant still classified as under "alerts for monitoring" by the World Health Organization.
The official said the B.1.1.318 was first seen in Mauritius. The WHO also put it under the said classification in June.
"Everything is being studied right now," Vergeire said in Filipino. "There is no cause for panic and we only need to be vigilant and follow our minimum public health standards."
The first Filipino infected with this variant had a travel history in the United Arab Emirates. He arrived in the Philippines on March 5, and his sample was collected by a Philippine Red Cross laboratory five days later.
Vergeire said his local address is at Bacolod City in Negros Occidental. The man recovered on March 21, she added.
'Delta still here'
The Philippines is currently seeing a decline in reported coronavirus cases, a welcome development for both authorities and experts monitoring the situation.
But Vergeire said the threat of the Delta variant remains in the country.
She was responding to a query after vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., who is not a health expert, remarked over the weekend that the Philippines has defeated the Delta variant.
"We were expecting that there would be a very huge increase in cases, we would be overwhelmed and many would die," Vergeire said in Filipino, "but we did not reach the projected number of cases and overwhelmed health systems."
In recent months, cases spiked to five-digit numbers that went as far as over 20,000 per day. The highest since the pandemic was on September 11, when authorities reported 26,303 infections.
"We are not saying we have defeated the Delta because it is still here," the official added. "Nine out of 10 of those sequenced are already with the Delta…but what is good is we were able to control [it]."
The Philippines has so far tallied 2.75 million coronavirus cases, along with 41,793 deaths.
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