Press Release| September 06, 2021.

The Department of Health Eastern Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH EVCHD) confirms that a total of 21 new variant of concern cases have been detected in the region thru the report received from the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health. This include 17 cases of the highly transmissible Delta Variant or the B. lineage first identified in India, one case of the Beta Variant or B.1.351 first identified in South Africa, and three cases of the Variant Under Investigation P.3 first detected in the Philippines. With this recent addition, there are now a total of 31 cases of the Delta Variant identified and tagged in the region.

18 of the mentioned cases are from the set of 104 samples sent to the Philippine Genome Center for whole genome sequencing last August 10, 2021. Meanwhile, the DOH EVCHD, thru its Surveillance and Epidemiology Unit, adds that the 3 other cases of the Delta Variant have been tested in other molecular laboratories outside the region and confirmed that the cases are from Daram, Samar, St. Bernard, Southern Leyte, and Palompon Leyte, respectively. All three have been identified to be Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) while the rest are currently considered local cases.

The remaining 14 Delta variant cases are from Tacloban City with 3 cases, 2 cases each in Maasin, Hernani, and Borongan, and the municipalities of Zumarraga, Mercedes, Kananga, Mapanas, and Calbayog City with one case each.

Meanwhile, the Beta Variant case is from St. Bernard in Southern Leyte and the Variant Under Investigation P.3 has been detected in Calbayog City with 2 cases, and one case in Palo, Leyte.

A series of stringent investigation is currently being conducted by the DOH EVCHD Surveillance Team to determine further details linked to the cases including the vaccination status, case age range, and close contacts up to the third generation for case monitoring and surveillance. Although initial reports regarding the identified variant of concern cases have already been determined, the institution currently awaits additional data for the case profiles of this set to be completed.

The DOH EVCHD stresses the importance of active case monitoring, surveillance, and contact tracing up to the third generation of all confirmed cases to control and contain any possible case of further transmission.

Following the detection of cases with variants of concern, it is of essence that the intensified implementation of the Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment, Reintegration strategies across all settings, stricter border control, and proper adherence to the minimum public health standards must be observed. The DOH EVCHD reiterates that whole genome sequencing, or the comprehensive method used to determine other variants of concern, is conducted to guide the overall response strategies of the government and to determine if variants are causing spike 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 cases remain the same.

Furthermore, the DOH EVCHD stresses 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. The institution reaffirms that as vaccination efforts are escalated, the public is reminded that vaccines are effective in reducing morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19, which will be very instrumental in the institution’s primary goal of saving lives.