Delta Plus sub-variant not yet detected in the Philippines – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   October 21, 2021   •   378

MANILA, Philippines – The Delta Plus sublineage (AY.4.2) of COVID-19 Delta variant (B.1.617.2) has not yet been detected in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.

In a statement, the DOH said its biosurveillance activities has been closely monitoring 46 sublineages of the Delta variant, and so far has not detected the AY.4.2 sub-variant.

The DOH issued the statement following reports on the increasing case of sublinage AY.4.2 in the United Kingdom (UK) and its detection in other countries.

“As of this moment, experts are still studying the potential impact of the Delta sublineage on the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19. The particular Delta sublineage has not yet been detected among the COVID-19 positive samples sequenced in the country,” the department said.

Delta variant has been listed by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern but its subtypes are not.

Health experts in the UK have earlier reported that the AY.4.2 may be 10% more transmissible than its parent variant.

The Delta Plus subtype is a mutation of the original Delta variant. Its behavior, severity, and transmission frequency are still being monitored.

But whatever the variant that may appear, the DOH stressed that mutations occur as part of the natural process of virus evolution.

It reminded the public to be vigilant and continue adhering to health protocols, adding that all COVID-19 cases should be managed similarly and as per current quarantine protocols.

“Each case must be immediately isolated and contact traced upon detection. Current evidence also showed that the presence or absence of a variant of interest or concern among cases do not dictate the appropriate clinical management,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.

“We should always remain vigilant against COVID-19, moreso that we are safely reopening our economy,” she added.

The DOH also reminded the public that, while variants may contribute to increase or aggravate COVID-19 cases, strict and proper adherence to the minimum public health standards reduces the risk of getting exposed to COVID-19.

It also reiterated its call on the public to get vaccinated for additional protection against COVID-19.

“Our proper adherence to the minimum public health standards is still our best protection and is the best way to curb the transmission, prevent the spread of the variants and slow down the appearance of mutations,” Vergeire said.

“Getting fully-vaccinated is also another layer of protection that can help us from getting severe COVID-19,” she added.

24K expired AstraZeneca vaccine doses sa Western Visayas, susuriin kung maaari pang gamitin – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2021

Ipinapasuri na ng Department of Health (DOH)-Western Visayas kung maaari pang gamitin ang nasa 24,000 doses ng AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine na nag-expire noong November 30.

Bahagi ito ng libu-libong supply ng AstraZeneca vaccine na ipinadala sa Western Visayas noong buwan ng Oktubre.

Nasa 45,000 doses sa mga ito ang ipinadala sa Negros Occidental noong Nobyembre 8. Batay sa ulat ng provincial government, 14,920 doses pa ang natitira sa mga ito at hindi nagamit hanggang sa mag-expire noong Nobyembre 30.

Ayon kay Negros Occidental provincial administrator Atty. Rayfrando Diaz II, hindi ginamit ang mga nasabing bakuna dahil tumanggi umano ang mga local government unit (LGU) na tanggapin ito dahil sa nalalapit na expiration date.

“We value our vaccines. We want to use them. We do not delay, but we value more the vaccinees. We don’t want to inject vaccines that are about to expire,” ani Diaz.

Ang natitirang 10,000 doses naman ay nasa iba’t ibang lokalidad.

Ayon sa DOH regional office, ipinasasauli na nila ang mga nasabing bakuna upang masuri kung maaari pa itong gamitin.

Ayon kay Bea Camille Natalaray, ang tagapagsalita ng DOH Region 6, hihingan rin ng paliwanag ang concerned LGUs kung bakit hindi nagamit ang nasabing supply.

“Magpapasa sila ng incident report to explain bakit hindi nila na-utilize ang vaccine within the period of time. Ano ang mga factors konoconsider para next time maging part na siya ng ating mga guidelines or protocols or strategies,” ani Natalaray.

Sa ngayon ay hinihintay pa ng DOH-6 ang magiging desisyon ng central office kung dapat bang managot ang mga LGU sa pagkasira ng mga bakuna. (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Lalaine Moreno)

2.5 million vaccinated in day 1 of PH vaccination drive – DOH exec

Robie de Guzman   •   November 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – More than 2.5 million individuals were inoculated against COVID-19 on the first day of the government’s three-day nationwide vaccination drive, a Department of Health (DOH) official said Tuesday.

In a public briefing, DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said a total of 2,554,023 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Monday.

This is 2.5 times the daily average last week, she added.

Of the total doses, the biggest chunk was administered in Calabarzon, followed by Central Luzon, Western Visayas, and Bicol regions.

Cabotaje, who also chairs the National Vaccination Operations Center, noted that the only “major challenge” they encountered in the first day of the vaccination drive were reports that some walk-ins at vaccination sites were not given the shots.

“Meron pong direktiba ang ating Presidente to vaccinate everyone… We allow walks-ins. Dapat po, walang uuwi na nakapila na hindi nabakunahan,” she said.

The government on Monday kicked off its three-day vaccination campaign, dubbed as “Bayanihan, Bakunahan” program, which aims to inoculate around 9 million people.

The campaign will end on Wednesday, December 1.

The National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 earlier said the vaccination drive will only be the first leg of the program, which is focused on scaling up the inoculation rate of local government units for the first vaccine dose by covering up to 70% of their target populations.

The second leg of the vaccination event will be held from December 15 to 17, which will focus on ramping up the number of fully vaccinated individuals to achieve the government’s target of fully vaccinating at least 54 million Filipinos by year-end.

PH tracing passengers who arrived from countries with Omicron cases – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said it has started tracing passengers who arrived in the country from areas with local cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant.

DOH Epidemiology director, Dr. Alethea de Guzman said this is to assess them to ensure that they are not infected with the new coronavirus variant.

“Iyong mga galing sa banned countries na naunang nag-arrive ay ngayon ay tinetrace ng ating BOQ, RESUs and DILG para ma-assess sila at ma-test,” she said.

The move is in compliance to the directive of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) for The Bureau of Quarantine and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) with the local government units (LGUs) to identify and locate passengers who arrived within 14 days prior to November 29, 2021, from countries classified as Red.

This is to require them to complete quarantine under a home quarantine set-up for 14 days from date of arrival and undergo RT-PCR if symptoms develop.

The Philippine government has recently expanded the Red List to include Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy. This is in addition to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique that were earlier placed in the Red List due to the threat of Omicron, which was first detected in the region.

The Red List, which is effective from November 28 until December 15, means that travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, coming from or who have been to the Red List areas within the last 14 days prior to their arrival will not be allowed to enter the Philippines.

Only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation and Bayanihan flights may be allowed entry. However, they will be subject to the prevailing entry, testing, and quarantine protocols for Red List territories.

De Guzman said authorities are now reviewing the existing protocols to address the new variant.

“Dahil nga sa pag-deklara ng Omicron as a variant of concern at ito namang Omicron na ito ay papasok hindi galing sa ating, hindi siya lalabas intransically sa Philippines pero malamang manggaling sa ibang bansa, kailangan talaga nating maglagay ng measures para ma-prevent natin, ma-delay natin as long as possible ang pagpasok ng Omicron sa ating bansa,” she said.

The Philippines has not yet recorded any case of Omicron variant based on the ongoing genome sequencing process.

The country has seen a downward trend of coronavirus infections in the past weeks.

On Monday, the Philippines logged 665 fresh COVID-19 cases, pushing the country’s total caseload to 2,832,375. This is the lowest since July 14, 2020 with 634 cases.

The country remains at low-risk classification for COVID-19.

But the DOH warned that this could spike if Omicron variant slips through the country’s borders.

The department said it has recommended to LGUs to shift back to using RT-PCR tests, instead of antigen tests to detect the presence of the Omicron variant.

“There are allegedly some tests that cannot detect kasi meron lang specific na mutations unique to Omicron na pwede lang makita ng certain RT- PCR kits,” De Guzman said.

“Ang ating mga positive samples naman ay mapapadala natin sa ating UP-Phil Genome Center at doon natin makikita kung sila ay may Omicron… Much like iyong mga may kaso ng Alpha, Beta and Delta ,kung mayroon ka ring Omicron walang pagbabago sa magiging management sa inyo ng doktor. Walang dagdag na gamot, bagong treatment. Pareho pa rin ang magiging treatment sa kanila,” she added.

De Guzman also noted that there is no clear evidence yet to say whether Omicron variant causes severe infection or if it more transmissible than other variants of concern.

“Sa ngayon, base sa mga studies, hindi natin nakikita na mas magiging apektado ang isang age group, hindi rin natin nakikita na mas magiging severe ang disease, o mas magiging mataas ang tiyansa ng pagkamatay sa mga may kaso na may Omicron variant,” she said.

“Pero dahil nakakita nga tayo ng maraming mutations dito sa variant na ito kaya itinataas natin ang pagbabantay ang ating response,” she added.

The DOH also reminded the public to take extra care as preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron for people who have previously had COVID-19, as compared to other variants of concern.

Clusters of cases in a certain area should also be monitored and submitted for sequencing to ensure that there are no new virus mutations.

The World Health Organization classified Omicron as a variant of concern last week. Several countries imposed travel restrictions amid increased detection in nations across the world.

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