Press Release, August 18, 2021.

One (1) additional case of the Delta Variant, or the B.1.617 lineage first identified in India, is confirmed to have been detected in Eastern Visayas as per the report that the Department of Health Eastern Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH EVCHD) received from the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau. This is after the result came out from the Philippine Genome Center where the sample was sent for genome sequencing.

Unlike all other previously narrated cases of the Delta Variant in the region, this additional case is of a Returning Overseas Filipino (ROF) with travel history in countries like Egypt, Italy, and Japan. Therefore, the institution is making it clear to the public that this is not a locally transmitted case. This ROF is from Kawayan, Biliran who initially tested positive for COVID-19 while he was in Manila. As per regulations, he needed to complete his mandatory 10-day isolation period, and was able to comply. On August 4th, he was discharged from his Isolation Facility without any display of signs or symptoms of the virus, and traveled via local airline bound for the province of Biliran thru the Tacloban DZR Airport. Consequently, the identified ROF was still in isolation, as per LGU protocol for returning OFWs, when the result of the genome sequencing yielded positive for the said highly transmissible variant of concern. The surveillance team of the DOH EVCHD has identified close contacts up to the third generation, and conducted swab tests, including the identified index case, as it is imperative in this circumstance. The team, including all concerned officials and agencies, currently awaits results of the tests. All identified contacts are already in isolation.

The DOH EVCHD reiterates that the purpose of whole genome sequencing is to guide the overall strategies of the respective local government units against COVID-19 and not for individual case management. The samples sequenced are already COVID-19-postive regardless of the variant. Therefore, management and treatment of these cases should remain the same. All necessary health measures should be implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Meanwhile, to combat the cases of COVID-19 in the region, especially with the emergence of variants of concern, the DOH EVCHD, thru its Regional Vaccine Operations Center (RVOC), introduced its pilot strategy in transporting COVID-19 vaccines in the region. On August 17th, the first ever COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment thru a Third-Party Logistics Provider was implemented. In this initiative, the vaccines are no longer transported to the DOH EVCHD Cold Storage Facility. All pre-allocated vaccines are set to be delivered directly to each recipient Local Government Unit where transport liabilities will be handled and answerable by Non-Pareil, the identified Third-Party Logistics Provider of the institution. This is a preemptive approach of the RVOC as the region anticipates successive vaccine deliveries in the future, and for efficient vaccine transportation. Through this strategy, the LGUs will be effectively ready to accommodate direct vaccine deliveries in the days to come.

Following the detection of cases with variants of concern, it is of essence that to complement the strengthened vaccine initiative in the region, 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. 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. 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.