Treat all new COVID infections as Delta variant cases – expert
MANILA, Philippines — A health official said the government should consider all new COVID-19 cases as caused by the more transmissible Delta variant in order to implement effective measures to stop its further spread.
“With the confirmation of the local transmission of the Delta variant, we need to work on the premise that every case that’s now detected is Delta so that we can act accordingly,” Dr. Anna Lisa Ong Lim, a member of the Department of Health (DOH) technical advisory group, told President Duterte via videoconferencing on Saturday during his meeting with Cabinet members.
According to Lim, aside from stricter border controls, efficient disease surveillance—enhanced through whole genome sequencing—“will ensure that we will be able to detect our signals immediately and be able to keep one step ahead.”
“Border control continues to be a very critical component that we hope will continue to slow entry of more individuals who are positive not just for Delta but also other variants of concern that may be discovered in the future,” she said.
55 new Delta variant cases
The DOH reported that of 373 random COVID-19 samples analyzed on Saturday, 55, or about 15 percent, were of the Delta variant.
Thirty-seven were local cases with no travel history while 17 were Filipinos who recently returned from abroad. There was no data on the whereabouts of one case.
Of the 55 cases, all have been tagged as recovered except for one who died. Fourteen out of the 37 local cases were from the Calabarzon region, eight from Northern Mindanao, six from Metro Manila, six from Central Luzon, two from Davao region and one from the Ilocos region, the DOH said.
Testing on 4th or 5th day
An infectious diseases expert has suggested that close contacts of confirmed Delta variant cases be tested earlier, instead of on the seventh day after exposure based on the current protocol, because of the strain’s “ultrafast spread.”
“The implication here is that the patient exposed to the Delta variant should be tested earlier, like on the fourth or fifth day, instead of on the seventh day. They are more infectious earlier … [even] before they test positive [through an] RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test,” Dr. Rontgene Solante said in a Viber message.
According to him, the variant achieves its ultrafast spread at a shorter time interval of four days compared to the original strain. Carriers become contagious early on and develop a viral load that is 1,000 times higher than those infected by other variants.
For incoming foreign travelers, the current testing protocol should be maintained: Testing should be done on the fifth to seventh day upon arrival since this is the “optimal window” for detection, Solante said.
No adjustment needed
But in a text message, government technical adviser Dr. Edsel Salvana said there was no need to adjust the current testing protocol as long as the contact was quarantined promptly to avoid infecting others.
Testing, however, should be done right away if symptoms develop, he added.
If the test result is negative, the 14-day quarantine period must still be observed, preferably in a government-run facility and not at home.
“Of course, there are humanitarian issues (that allow home isolation) like (when the person is) sickly and elderly, or very young, or when facilities have run full,” he said.
But local governments must closely monitor suspected cases isolating at home pending their test results.
The total known COVID-19 cases in the country went up to 1,548,755 on Sunday after the DOH recorded an additional 5,479 COVID-19 infections.
—WITH A REPORT FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN
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