Local government units (LGUs) will ramp up contract tracing and isolation in Metro Manila to deal with the threat of the more transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19.
Metro Manila mayors met Sunday to discuss the situation in their cities and what was being done by way of intensive prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, and rehabilitation, said Benhur Abalos, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
What they are trying to avoid is having their hospital systems overwhelmed by a new surge of coronavirus cases, Abalos said.
Unconfirmed reports said big hospitals in the National Capital Region such as the Philippine General Hospital, Lung Center, and St. Luke’s Hospital were being swamped with referrals for new COVID-19 cases.
The Department of Health had yet to confirm as of press time if these cases were of the Delta variant.
In Quezon City, Mayor Joy Belmonte said they would no longer allow home quarantine of COVID-19 cases.
Sa Juan Mayor Francis Zamora said his city was exerting extra effort to do contact tracing, saying it was essential to quickly identify and isolate confirmed Delta variant cases.
The Metro Manila mayors will meet Monday to discuss a proposal to revoke a policy to allow minors 5 years and older to go outdoors.
The independent OCTA Research Group, meanwhile, said a bubble in the NCR Plus, composed of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, would protect these areas from the COVID-19 Delta variant and allow the economy to keep running.
The bubble could keep out the more transmissible variant and limit movements to essential travels, said OCTA Research fellow Guido David.
“I think the idea of a bubble worked a few months ago when we experienced a surge. It will just work in reverse this time. It is designed to protect NCR Plus from the outside to keep out variants," David said in Filipino in an interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
“If we have a bubble, we're protected inside NCR Plus, we can't be affected from the outside and our economy will continue to run,” David said.
The DOH earlier warned of a possible surge after local cases of the Delta variant first reported in India were found in the NCR and other areas.
David said the bubble would also not require children to again be prohibited from going outside.
The Delta variant may cause long-term effects of COVID-19 among children, he warned.
“Scientists in the UK are very concerned about it. If children are affected, 10 percent of them will suffer from long COVID,” David said.
The Philippines has yet to record a spike due to the Delta variant, but OCTA is concerned about a few areas including Mariveles town in Bataan and Laoag City in Ilocos Norte that are recording a spike in COVID-19 cases, David said.
The Delta variant cases the DOH recently reported were maybe from May and June, David noted, as transportation and genome sequencing time should be taken into consideration.
“We have to be proactive. We can't just stand by and wait to experience a surge before we react and respond to the threat of the Delta variant,” he said.
The Philippines logged 5,411 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 1,507,755.
There were 117 new fatalities Sunday, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 26,714.
The DOH also reported 5,439 newly-recovered persons, bringing total recoveries to 1,433,851.
There were 47,190 active cases, of which 91.9 percent were mild, 1.9 percent were asymptomatic, 1.6 percent were critical, 2.7 percent were severe, and 1.88 percent were moderate.
Nationwide, 55 percent of the ICU beds, 46 percent of the isolation beds, 43 percent of the ward beds, and 35 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 42 percent of the ICU beds, 39 percent of the isolation beds, 33 percent of the ward beds, and 33 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
On Saturday, the DOH said it was trying to confirm if one of the two reported Delta variant cases, referred to as case no. 34 and no. 35, in Antique has died.
According to the Local Health Support Division of the Western Visayas Center for Health Development, case no. 34 died on May 31.
The health office added that neither case no. 34 nor case no. 35 had any history of travel outside the Philippines.
Tracing has been undertaken on those who have had contact with either of the cases, Health officials said.
The DOH earlier said two people who tested positive for the Delta variant of COVID-19 have died.
One died after being taken to hospital on June 28, while the other one was a crewman aboard the MV Athens.
The DOH also said 33 of the 35 Delta variant cases have fully recovered. Eleven of these were local Delta variant cases.
In other developments:
• Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday reiterated the need to ramp up vaccination efforts against COVID-19, amid the looming danger of the more infectious Delta variant. She called on the government to use the 3.2 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines from the COVAX facility to vaccinate Filipinos residing in areas detected with the Delta variant.
• Senator Christopher Go suggested that the Philippine Coast Guard should beef up its maritime patrols, particularly in Mindanao's backdoor entries, to prevent the spread of the Delta variant. Neighboring Indonesia is suffering from a third wave of COVID-19, and the government has barred persons from Indonesia from entering the Philippines from July 16 to 31.
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