More cases of Delta, other COVID-19 variants detected in the Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   July 29, 2021   •   405

(UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines — More cases of the highly infectious variants of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have been detected in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.

In an update, the DOH said that 97 more cases of the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant, which first emerged in India, have been recorded in the country based on the report of the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the University of the Philippines – National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH).

Of this number, 88 were local cases, six were returning overseas Filipinos (ROF), and three are being verified if they are local or ROF cases.

Of the six ROFs, two were seafarers from the MT Clyde and Barge Claudia currently anchored off Albay, and four were from crewmembers of MV Vega that arrived from Indonesia.

Ninety-four cases have been tagged as recovered while three died.

“The DOH is coordinating with the respective local government units to determine other information, such as exposure and vaccination status,” the agency said.

The total number of Delta variant cases is now 216.

Health authorities also reported the detection of 83 Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant cases, 127 Beta (B.1.351) variant cases, and 22 P.3 variant cases in the latest batch of whole genome sequencing results.

Of the additional 83 Alpha variant cases detected, 68 are local cases and 15 are currently being verified if they are local or ROF cases.

Based on the case line list, one has died and 82 cases have been tagged as recovered.

In total, the country has recorded 1,856 Alpha variant cases.

The Alpha variant was first reported in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, of the additional 127 Beta variant cases detected, 106 were local cases and 21 cases are currently being verified if they are local or ROF cases.

Based on the case line list, one remains active, three have died, and 121 have been tagged as recovered, and two cases whose outcomes are currently being verified.

The total Beta variant cases are now at 2,146.

The Beta variant was first detected in South Africa.

Meanwhile, of the additional 22 P.3 variant cases reported, 10 were local cases while 12 cases are currently being verified if they are local or ROF cases.

All have been tagged as recovered, the DOH said.

The World Health Organization previously reclassified the P.3 variant as “alert for further monitoring,” which means that this variant is still being investigated and information is continually collected to monitor its public health implication.

Following the detection of additional cases with variants of concern, the DOH said that it is imperative for local government units to immediately crush clusters of infection and observed increases in cases in their respective jurisdictions to reduce transmission.

“This can be done through active case finding, shortening the detection to isolation/quarantine interval to less than five days, tracing close contacts of suspects, probable, and confirmed cases within 24 hours of detection, and implementing more targeted granular lockdowns,” it added.

The DOH likewise said that the intensified implementation of the PDITR strategies across all settings, stricter border control, and correct adherence to the minimum public health standards must be observed.

The agency reiterated that whole genome sequencing is conducted to “guide the overall response strategies of the government and to determine if variants are causing spikes in cases, and thus should not be used as point-of-care strategies.”

Regardless of the presence of a variant of concern, the management and interventions for these positive COVID-19 cases remain the same, it said.

The DOH also stressed the importance of vaccinating priority groups A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with underlying conditions) since they are at high risk for severe COVID-19 and death.

“Vaccines are effective in reducing morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19, which will be very instrumental in our goal of saving lives,” it said.

PH FDA approves COVID-19 vaccine booster jabs for general adult population

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday announced it has approved the administration of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for the general adult population.

FDA director general Eric Domingo said the booster shots will be administered to all adults aged 18 years old and above, based on the assessment of benefit and risks

Domingo said the same brands and combinations like those recommended for health workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals will be applied to booster doses for the general adult population.

The FDA earlier said that vaccine brands Pfizer, AstraZeneca, SInovac, Moderna, and Sputnik V will be used as booster shots.

The guidelines on the distribution and use of booster shots will be released by the Department of Health.

“Sisimulan na rin natin, lumabas na yung EUA Amendment mula sa FDA. Nilagdaan na po ni director general Eric Domingo yung advisory na ito… Anytime this week,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The government has started giving booster shots to health workers, senior citizens, and select immunocompromised individuals in November.

COVID-19 variant Omicron not yet detected in Philippines – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Newly-discovered COVID-19 variant Omicron has not yet been detected in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said following reports about travelers from South Africa who are being quarantined in Negros Occidental.

“We are getting details on these travellers, we will provide info as soon. Just to be clear, no detection yet of Omicron, we are still processing next batch of whole genome sequences,” DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a statement.

The three foreign nationals arrived in Negros Occidental last November 26.

They are currently being quarantined in Manapla, Calatrava, and La Carlota City.

Local authorities said the foreign travelers arrived in the country on November 25 before the national government placed South Africa under the Red List due to the Omicron variant.

They have also been issued with Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage (S-Pass) in Makati and have passed the approval of the Bureau of Quarantine in Manila.

The provincial government said the three are fully vaccinated and tested negative based on their RT-PCR test results. They will undergo re-swabbing while under quarantine.

Local officials have assured the public that the travelers are being monitored and that they will continue to intensify their measures against COVID-19.

Google to pause election ads during 2022 polls in Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Google on Wednesday announced it will not accept election ads in the Philippines during the election campaign and silence periods for the 2022 national and local elections.

In a statement, Google said the policy will apply to election advertisements in the Philippines that are purchased through Google ads, Display and Video 360, and shopping platforms that advertisers intend to place on Google, YouTube, and partner properties.

This also includes advertisements that promote or oppose any political party or the candidacy of any person or party for public office, the tech giant added.

Based on the calendar of activities released by the Commission on Elections, the official campaign period for national candidates will start on February 8, and on March 25 for local candidates.

“Google is focusing its efforts and resources on upcoming election-related initiatives, which aim to help people access, useful and accurate information via product features and media literacy program, encourage participation in the voting process and help protect the integrity of the elections,” the tech giant said.

Under the rules and regulations of the Fair Elections Act for the 2022 elections, political advertisements or election propaganda refer to any matter broadcasted, published, printed, displayed or exhibited, in any medium, which contains the name, logo, brand, insignia and other symbol or graphic representation that is capable of being associated with a candidate, and is exclusively intended to draw the attention of the public or a segment thereof to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the election of said candidates to a public office.

Political advertising includes endorsements, statements, declaration, or information graphics, appearing on any internet website, social network, blogging site, and micro blogging site, which – when taken as a whole – has for its principal object the endorsement of a candidate only, or which were posted in return for consideration or are otherwise capable of pecuniary estimation.

Earlier this year, Google launched a #MagparehistroKa campaign with COMELEC and other partners.

It also hosted a website on Google Cloud to support voter registration campaigns.

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