The Department of Health (DOH) has recently acknowledged the possibility of having undetected cases in the Philippines.
The faster-spreading COVID-19 Delta variant, is known to be 60% more contagious than the Alpha variant.
“The possibility is always there,” claims DOH undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosaria Vergeire in a virtual briefing when asked about why the Delta variant escaped detection.
MANILA — Purposive sampling, getting samples from areas with high cases, is currently being done to triple-check on the possibility of any COVID-19 Delta variant, says the health department’s undersecretary Vergeire.
The Philippine Genome Center checks these samples, and can currently run 750 samples per week. Its capacity will increase to around 1,500 once new machines arrive. Meanwhile, the health agency is also planning a capacity extension to both the Visayas and Mindanao.
There are currently 35 confirmed cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant, three of which have succumbed to death while the rest were reported to have recovered. Two of the three people who died have not been vaccinated. Eleven of the overall 35 are known to be locally acquired cases.
Among those who have recovered, seven have again tested positive for the virus, bringing the active count back from zero to seven. This strange occurrence is now being closely monitored, says Ms Vergeire. Close contacts of active cases have also been identified, in case they contracted the variant.
According to updates, they re-contracted their infection after quarantine. Ms Vergeire says they were supposed to be tagged recovered but failed to get a COVID-19 test after the 14th day.
The DOH did not set up a protocol for retesting COVID-19 patients before releasing them. The patients were sent home without a final clearance.
Undergoing another round of quarantine, the health department is again saying most of these patients have not interacted with anyone within their local communities prior this second quarantine.
Nevertheless, 47 contacts of all Delta cases have been traced. It is not disclosed whether these traced individuals are now in isolation.
Sporadic, not locally transmitted
Ms Vergeire clarifies the active Delta variant cases cannot yet be considered local transmission. They did not take place in clusters.
“These local cases that we have right now are kind of sporadic, where they are in different areas and different timelines of getting infected,” says Ms Vergeire during an interview with The Source.
“When we look closely at these cases, lahat sila halos ang Ct (cycle threshold) value nila matataas. Ibig sabihin, mababa na yung viral load sa katawan. And, therefore, most likely, hindi na sila ganun ka-infectious.
“But of course, we would still like to be very sure, that’s why they are now in quarantine pa rin at binabantayan,” says Ms Vergeire.
A resurgence could equate to re-imposition of stricter measures
Since the variant’s entry into the country, health experts have become worried about the Philippines’ ability to deal with a possible resurgence.
President Rodrigo Duterte said in his recent weekly address this Monday, 19 July, “The reported local cases in the country are a cause for serious alarm and concern…We may need to reimpose stricter restrictions to avoid mass gatherings and prevent super spreader events.”
The government has already imposed a travel ban on India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates and Oman. (RF/The MiNT)