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DoH reports more cases of coronavirus variants

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PHILIPPINE health authorities on Thursday reported 12 more cases of the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant that is ravaging several Southeast Asian countries, bringing the total to 47.

All patients have recovered, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a statement. Of the 12 cases, six were detected in Central Luzon, three in Metro Manila, two in Southern Tagalog, and one in the Bicol Region, it added.

Of the 47 Delta cases — said to be 60% more contagious than the Alpha variant — in the country, eight were active and 23 were local cases, it said.

DoH said enhanced response was needed in areas where the coronavirus variant was detected and in nearby local governments. Areas with infection spikes are assumed to be experiencing local transmission of the Delta variant, it added.

The Health department said 187 more people have been infected with the Alpha variant of the coronavirus, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, bringing the total to 1,668.

It also said 142 more people have been infected with the Beta variant that was first detected in South Africa, bringing the total to 1,827.

Twelve more people have acquired the Theta variant of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 233, it added.

There were 18 active cases of the Alpha variant, 17 cases of the Beta variant and a case of the Theta variant in the country. The Philippine Genome Center has sequenced 8,930 samples, it said.

DoH reported 5,828 coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 1.53 million. The death toll rose to 26,891 after 17 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 3,257 to 1.45 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 50,562 active cases, 92.7% of which were mild, 1.6% were asymptomatic, 2.5% were severe, 1.74% were moderate and 1.5% were critical.

DoH said 11 duplicates had been removed from the tally, eight of which were tagged as recoveries. Fifteen recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Five laboratories failed to submit data on July 20.

Meanwhile, a group of health experts flagged an increase in the coronavirus reproduction rate in Manila, the capital and nearby cities.

The reproduction rate in the National Capital Region increased by 0.24 to 1.15 from a week earlier, the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines said in a report.

The average daily coronavirus infections in the region increased by 27% to 813 from July 15 to 21, it added.

“The trend in the reproduction rate over the past week shows a similar pattern with the trend from Feb. 13 to 19, when the reproduction number increased from 1.06 to 1.30,” it said. “That period signified the start of the surge in NCR (National Capital Region).”

OCTA said the government should enforce stricter quarantine rules, expand testing, contact tracing, and localized lockdowns.

The increase in coronavirus cases should not be underestimated because it may be driven by the Delta variant, Fredegusto P. David, an OCTA research fellow, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

The National Government should place Metro Manila under a stricter lockdown or impose more restrictions to prevent a surge in cases, he said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte this week said he might reimpose a stricter lockdown to curb the Indian coronavirus variant.

He said rising cases of the variant were a cause for alarm, adding that stricter quarantines would prevent its spread.

Metro Manila mayors have been urging the country’s pandemic task force to recall a decision allowing children as young as five years to go outdoors.

Anthony C. Leachon, a former pandemic official, earlier said local transmission of the Delta variant might have been underreported in the absence of genome surveillance studies particularly in hotspots outside the National Capital Region.

Philippine Genome Center Executive Director Cynthia P. Saloma had said the agency could only sequence 750 samples weekly.

Ms. Vergeire earlier said the agency could test 1,500 samples weekly once it gets more machines. The center would extend its capacity to its networks in the Visayas and Mindanao, she said.

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