The Department of Health confirmed Monday that three Filipinos have died after contracting the Delta variant of COVID-19.
DOH spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a message to the media, said the latest fatality was a 58-year old female from Pandacan, Manila who died on June 28.
Vergeire, earlier in the day, denied that another case was detected in Taguig as a local infection.
Vergeire said one of the confirmed fatalities was a 78-year-old female from Baybay, Antique who died on May 30.
The other one is a 63-year-old Returning Overseas Filipino male, an MV Athens crew member who died on May 19, she said.
All Delta variant carriers in the Philippines have been "again tested and quarantined," Vergeire said.
"All Delta variant cases are immediately re-assessed to determine their current clinical, laboratory, and isolation status. They shall be swabbed for repeat RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) at end of their isolation or upon determination that they were positive for the Delta variant,” Vergeire said.
"They shall remain in isolation while awaiting results. Those whose RT-PCR is negative, already asymptomatic, and have completed the minimum 10-day isolation may be discharged from isolation," she added.
The government is reviewing the contact tracing results of these cases "to identify RT-PCR positive close contacts whose samples may be eligible for sequencing," Vergeire said.
These measures were done a few days after the DOH confirmed that 11 Filipinos, who have no recent travel history, tested positive for the more contagious strain of COVID-19.
Local transmission of the Delta variant may already have happened, but authorities don’t know where it has spread, OCTA Research Fellow Guido David said Monday.
This was possible, David said, because the country does not get real-time results of genome sequencing to determine what strain of the coronavirus a person is infected with.
"The best that we can do is look at the data and see where the cases are rising. For me, even if we don’t wait for the confirmation (via genome sequencing), we can assume that there’s a Delta variant somewhere in the Philippines that is spreading. We need to be proactive," he added.
Meanwhile, a tugboat and a barge that recently came from Indonesia delayed their docking in Albay province after 12 crew members tested positive for COVID-19.
Indonesia is suffering from a deadly wave of the coronavirus powered by the Delta variant.
According to a GMA TV report on "24 Oras" on Monday, the vessels were supposed to dock at the Lidong Port in Sto. Domingo, Albay on Tuesday.
However, the captain said he will delay the docking while awaiting protocols from Task Force COVID-19 Bicol and the local government unit.
The Philippine Coast Guard said the vessels—the MT Clyde, which is towing the barge Claudia—came from Indonesia and docked at a port in Butuan City on July 14, where the crew members got tested for COVID-19. One of the 12 crew members remained in Butuan.
The Delta variant was found to be more contagious due to its "L452R" mutation in the spike protein, which allows the virus to easily get past the immune system and spread faster in cells.
As of the latest data, 35 Filipinos were found to have contracted the COVID-19 Delta variant, which was first detected in India.
The Philippines has yet to announce stricter quarantine and health policies to curb the potential spread of the Delta variant, which has killed millions in India and in Indonesia.
Vergeire said contact tracing and further studies were underway to determine how the local cases caught the Delta variant despite having no travel history.
Vergeire also assured the public that experts had said that it was “improbable” that the coronavirus mutated locally into the Delta variant.
“Most probably and what our experts are saying, the assumption would be galing pa rin po sa labas ng bansa at nakapasok dito [the variant still came from outside and entered the country],” Vergeire said in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB.
“It seems that we had breaches in [quarantine] protocol,” she added.
Vergeire said the DOH would convene with experts to “discuss the status of NCR Plus.”
Meanwhile, officials confirmed there was a case of Delta variant of coronavirus disease in Taguig City, but clarified it was isolated and not a local case.
"Based on the report by the City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit, as of July 12 we have seen 73 cases of COVID-19 in Taguig,” the local government said in a statement.
According to the report, one of them was a Delta variant that came from India, said Clarence Santos, head of the Taguig Safe City Task Force.
The city's information office, however, stated that the single and isolated reported case of the Delta variant from a Taguig-bound returning overseas Filipino worker was detected as early as May, while the OFW was undergoing the required quarantine upon his arrival in the country.
"The patient was not released from quarantine until he recovered and was never able to set foot in Taguig when he was still infected with the virus," it added.
Authorities reiterated the call on the public to be aware of the more transmissible coronavirus Delta variant that was first detected in India and is now causing a deadly surge in neighboring Indonesia.
“We can't ignore this Delta variant because even if you have one or two doses [of vaccine], it can hit," said Chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
Abalos urged the public to be more careful and observe the health and safety protocols in public places, especially in crowded areas, to prevent another surge in COVID-19 cases, like what happened four months ago.
He cited that in March, there was a surge of active cases, prompting the government to again place Metro Manila and nearby provinces (Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal) under a stricter enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status.
"We should help each other and be responsible. Protect yourself and your family," the MMDA chief said.
Meanwhile, a lawmaker has urged the Department of Health and the Department of Interior and Local Government to consider the implementation of a house-to-house check-up for every locality all over the country.
Taguig City Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano made the call after he heard the stories of the beneficiaries of his Sampung Libong Pag-Asa program in Quezon City who are suffering from severe illnesses on top of being jobless due to the pandemic.
He cited how the City Government of Taguig improved its health care service by doing house-to-house surveys of the residents’ health status.
“So at any point in time, we know who among them are pregnant, have high blood pressure, or have diabetes. That’s why we are able to distribute maintenance medicines house to house,” Cayetano said during the Sampung Libong Pag-Asa program’s Facebook livestream on July 16.
"Believe me, knowing the number of the residents who need medicine will help you avail of generic drugs at a cheaper rate," said Cayetano.
Cayetano highlighted the story of Virginia Demerin, a resident of Quezon City and a beneficiary of the Sampung Libong Pag-Asa program, who lost her leg to severe diabetes in the middle of the pandemic.
"Take for example Nanay Virginia. She does not make a habit of asking for help, but she had to come forward because her circumstances left her with no choice," said Cayetano.
The four-term Taguig Representative said he would be “more than happy to share our system” of house-to-house check-ups to the DOH and the DILG to prevent cases such as that of Demerin.
Demerin used to provide for her family before the pandemic through her small eatery, but she had to close it down due to the negative physical effects of her illness.
“I never had a chance to visit a doctor,” she said in Tagalog.