(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.