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Raises fears of local transmission of dreaded strain

16 more Delta variant cases detected, including 11 local cases

/ 11:07 AM July 16, 2021

Updated

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MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) reported on Friday 16 additional cases, including 11 “local cases,” of the highly-transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

This brings the total Delta variant cases in the country to 35.

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“The DOH, Philippine Genome Center and University of the Philippines – National Institutes of Health report the detection of 16 new Delta variant cases including the first local cases based on the latest whole genome sequencing report,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online media briefing.

“Five of the 16 cases are returning overseas Filipinos (ROF)… Eleven cases are classified as local cases,” she added.

The World Health Organization earlier said the Delta variant, first identified in India, is becoming the globally dominant variant of the disease, because of its increased transmissibility.

While there is yet no evidence to prove that it is deadlier than other strains such as the Alpha variant first detected in the United Kingdom, studies showed that people infected with the Delta variant could be more likely to be hospitalized.

Earlier, Vergeire said the Delta variant is believed to be 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant. An Alpha-positive person can infect four to five persons, while a Delta-positive one can infect eight persons, she explained.

Where these cases came from

Of the five ROF cases, Vergeire said one traveler arrived in the Philippines from the United Kingdom on April 26 and has already recovered from COVID-19 and has completed the 14-day quarantine period.

She said two of the ROF cases arrived from Qatar on June 15 and have already recovered.

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The DOH is still verifying the arrival dates and quarantine status of the two other ROF cases, according to Vergeire.

Meanwhile, of the 11 local Delta cases, six were detected in Northern Mindanao, which are composed of five cases in Cagayan de Oro and one in Misamis Oriental.

Vergeire said they are “part of a large cluster of cases with dates of onset between June 23 to June 28.” All of them have been tagged as recovered.

Two of the local cases were detected in the city of Manila. “One case was tagged as death after being rushed to the emergency room of a hospital on June 28. The other case is an outpatient with an onset date of June 23 who was tagged as recovered already,” said Vergeire.

Another local case had onset of symptoms on June 27 and was already tagged as recovered. The patient was initially tested in Metro Manila but Vergeire said the patient’s indicated address was in Pampanga.

“All of these cases have no known connection to each other,” said Vergeire, referring to the cases in Metro Manila.

The last two local cases were detected in Antique in Western Visayas, both with onset of symptoms on May 27 but have already recovered.

‘No confirmed local transmission’

Dr. Alethea De Guzman, OIC-Director of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, said there is no confirmed local transmission of the Delta variant yet in the country despite the detection of these local cases.

“I would say not yet because we have not been able to link that one case has been able to infect another. But of course we are continually investigating,” she said when asked if there is already local transmission of the variant in the Philippines.

Vergeire noted that contact tracing was conducted for all the positive cases even when their genome sequencing results, which determine if they are infected with a specific variant, were still pending. She said a “back-tracing” is now being conducted to ensure that all the contacts of the 11 local cases were detected.

She also said the DOH met on Thursday with concerned local government units where the local cases were confirmed so they can intensify their pandemic response.

EDV

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