Press Release as of July 30, 2021

The Department of Health Eastern Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH EVCHD), thru its Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, received a report from the DOH Central Office’s Epidemiology Bureau that of the samples sent for sequencing to the Philippine Genome Center between June and July, ten (10) turned out to be positive for the highly transmissible Delta Variant or the B. lineage first identified in India.

Of the ten individuals who tested positive for the said variant of concern, nine (9) are from Eastern Samar– one (1) from Arteche, five (5) from Borongan, three (3) from Can-avid, and one (1) from Tacloban City. Although all have already recovered, the Surveillance and Epidemiology Unit of DOH EVCHD is conducting an investigation for forward and backward tracing. This is to determine the source or origin of transmission and determine the extent of transmission in the area. All are considered to be local cases because there were no recorded travel history outside the region amongst them. Active monitoring and surveillance is being conducted to gather more data about these cases in the areas mentioned.

According to researches conducted about the contagious Delta variant, it is 40-60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant and three times more transmissible than the original SARS-COV-2 virus where one case can infect eight people. It seems to be deadlier where even younger ages develop severe diseases and may appear worse when the healthcare system is overwhelmed. Also, it has a longer duration of infectiousness with a faster time to becoming infectious from time of exposure where even less than fifteen minutes of contact from an infected person, the virus can already transmit. It is highly contagious even when asymptomatic.

The DOH EVCHD clarifies that the samples being sent to the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) for sequencing are identified from areas with clustering of COVID-19 cases within a period of time. The samples are sent after a thorough study and analysis by the Surveillance Unit while the identified case is still active in the region. After which, the agency awaits results from PGC within 2-3 weeks, or a month at most, due to restrictions in the testing capacity of PGC, as it caters samples from all over the country.

Moreover, the purpose of whole genome sequencing is to guide the overall strategies of the respective local government units 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.

“Prevention is our best bet in stopping COVID-19,” Dr. Marc Steven Capungcol, Head of RESU-HEMS, reminds the public as each has a role to play to contain the transmission and follow the strategies of the Minimum Public Health Standard and added that “this is the only universal and effective protocol against any kind of variant of concern.”

With the establishment of the local transmission of the Delta variant in the region, a swifter implementation of response strategies must be reinforced. Dr. Exuperia B. Sabalberino, Regional Director of the DOH EVCHD, specified that there needs to be an individual-based and community-based responses against COVID-19 or any kind of variant of concern in the region. For the individual, one must live with and practice the Minimum Public Health Standards, must observe and embody the agency’s BIDA Solusyon Plus advocacy. “B – Bawal walang mask; I – I-sanitize ang mga kamay. D – Dumistansya ng isang metro; and A – alamin ang totoong impormasyon; and Plus – suportahan ang FDA-approved bakuna.”

On the other hand, local government units must immediately contain observed case increases through necessary quarantine classifications and stronger implementation of the PDITR strategies- Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment, and Reintegration. Both public and private sectors are asked to ensure active case finding, aggressive contact tracing, immediate isolation or quarantine, and compliance to minimum public health standards in their respective localities and even workplaces. All LGUs are reminded to intensify the vaccination drive in the community and strictly follow the Prioritization Framework set by the government in order to protect the most vulnerable while efforts are continued for everyone to get vaccinated. All vaccines work against COVID-19. The public is asked to get vaccinated- register and coordinate with your respective LGUs for masterlisting and schedule in order to get the maximum protection against the severe form of COVID-19. As Dr. Sabalberino said, “none of us is safe until everyone is safe.”