The more infectious coronavirus Delta variant, first detected in India, could cripple the country’s health care system because of its more infectious nature, the OCTA Research Group said on Thursday.
OCTA fellow Ranjit Rye warned that the Delta variant, which he described as a game changer, could lead to a surge of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Rye warned also that Filipinos should not be complacent and must follow minimum public health protocols.
“We want to emphasize that the Delta variant is a game changer. If it enters the country, it will crumble our healthcare system due to the sudden rise of new cases and since the variant is very infectious as well,” Rye said in a public briefing.
“That’s why our first message is that we need to take precautions, now is not the time to be complacent and to be neglectful,” Rye said.
“All we know is that some of the vaccines may not be very effective against these new variants... It’s not yet here in the country, it’s not yet spreading, our goal is to prevent that from happening,” he said.
As of June 21, the country has reported a total of 17 cases – although no transmission reported thus far – of the Delta variant but all of them were detected at the country’s borders.
Rye urged the public to get vaccinated and at the same time to follow minimum public health protocols to fight against this new and infectious variant.
“All the variants we are fighting them with just one approach, or two actually. First and foremost is to get vaccinated and number two is to follow minimum public health standards,” Rye said.
Rye said compared to the other variants such as the Alpha variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, the Delta variant was more contagious because one individual could spread the virus from six to eight other people.
“Just to give you a sense of the UK variant, if one professor is infected then the virus can spread from four to five people. While the new Delta variant can spread from six to eight other people, which only shows that it is a bigger number and it’s very contagious,” he said.
In terms of the vaccine efficacy, OCTA also said that some of the vaccines might not be “very effective” against the new variant called Delta plus.
Delta Plus is a mutation of the Delta variant which was tagged as the “new coronavirus variant of concern” by the government of India.
Vaccination 'only way'
Vaccination against COVID-19 is the only way to stop the transmission and mutation of the coronavirus, the Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday.
FDA Director General Eric Domingo, in an interview on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, said the COVID-19 vaccines being used in the country should remain effective against severe infection even if its protection could be reduced against new variants.
A UK study showed that the Delta variant first reported in India diminishes the efficacy of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to 89 percent from 94 percent, and Astrazeneca's to 59 percent from 70 percent, Domingo said. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
"It’s also the only way to stop the variant from coming in because as long as transmission continues, the chances of the virus mutating gets bigger,” Domingo said.
The country aims to vaccinate at least 58 million individuals this year to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.
A total of 8,407,342 jabs have been administered nationwide as of Sunday, the government said.
Meanwhile, the Philippines logged on Thursday 6,043 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), bringing the total to 1,378,260, as one laboratory was not able to submit their data to the COVID-19
Document Repository System on time, the Department of Health reported.
The DOH also reported 108 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 24,036.
The DOH also reported 4,486 recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 1,302,814.
Active cases were logged at 51,410, of which 90.6 percent were mild, 4.5 percent were asymptomatic, 1.4 percent were critical, 2 percent were severe, and 1.44 percent were moderate.
Vaccine push 'vital'
The highly contagious Delta variant could soon account for 90 percent of new coronavirus cases in the EU, the bloc's disease control agency said Wednesday, urging members to spur vaccination drives.
While the Alpha variant first discovered in the UK is the predominant strain now circulating in the European Union, that is expected to change quickly, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said.
"It is very likely that the Delta variant will circulate extensively during the summer, particularly among younger individuals that are not targeted for vaccination," Andrea Ammon, the center's director, said in a statement.
The centre's warning comes as Russia warned of an "explosive" surge in infections that have been made worse by low rates of vaccine uptake.
The UK has also seen the Delta variant become dominant, but has been shielded by a successful vaccination campaign, with 82.5 percent of adults having had at least one jab and 60 percent fully protected.
Speed up vaccine rollout
"At this stage it becomes crucial that the second vaccination dose is administered... to speed up the rate at which vulnerable individuals become protected," Ammon said.
The center estimates that the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), is 40 to 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant (Β.1.1.7).
"Unfortunately, preliminary data shows that it can also infect individuals that have received only one dose of the currently available vaccines," Ammon said.
The centre also urged countries to be cautious about relaxing curbs aimed at limiting the spread, especially over the summer months.
Any relaxation "could lead to a fast and significant increase in daily cases in all age groups," the agency said.
This increase could in turn lead to a rise in "hospitalizations, and deaths, potentially reaching the same levels of the autumn of 2020 if no additional measures are taken," it said.
France on Wednesday added Russia to its list of countries from which non-essential travel is banned, as concern grows over the spike of cases in Moscow.
With 50,000 new infections recorded in Moscow over the past two weeks, Mayor Sergei Sobyani on Wednesday warned that "the situation has become explosive," with 90 percent of cases being the Delta variant.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday stressed that there was “no basis” for a think tank’s projection that the Philippines would be among the last in Asia to achieve herd immunity from COVID-19.
“I think they should review their math or their calculator probably doesn’t have good batteries,” Duque said in a briefing with visiting Israeli vaccination experts in Taguig City.
“There is no basis for that statement of the self-proclaimed experts.
I don’t know where they’re coming from,” said Duque.
United Kingdom-based think tank Pantheon Macroeconomics earlier said the Philippines could be among the last countries in Asia to reach herd immunity based on the current pace of its inoculation campaign.
The Philippines will meet its goal of vaccinating 70 million Filipinos in 140 days if it manages to administer 500,000 doses daily, he said.
However, testing czar Vince Dizon said the country’s biggest single-day number of doses administered is only around 353,000.
“You have to understand that the jab rate is largely dependent primarily on supply. If there are no vaccines, you don’t have anything to administer,” Dizon said. With AFP