MANILA – Health authorities have detected four additional cases of the more transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, the Department of Health (DOH) reported on Monday.

In a statement, the DOH said aside from the Delta variant, also detected were cases of Alpha variant (14), Beta variant (21) and Theta variant (1), based on the latest whole-genome sequencing report by the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH).

So far, the country’s total number of Delta cases is 17.

Three of the four new Delta variant cases are returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) from the MV Eastern Hope, a ship currently docked in South Korea.

“Upon detection of the PCR-positive Filipino crew in South Korea, they were repatriated back to the Philippines on June 3, 2021,” the DOH said.

Two cases have completed the 10-day isolation after arrival in the country and were discharged upon release of certification of recovery while the other is still admitted in a hospital in Metro Manila.

The fourth case is another returning Filipino who arrived from Saudi Arabia on May 24, 2021.

“The case has completed the mandated isolation, tagged as recovered on June 10, 2021, discharged thereafter from the isolation facility, and is now under strict home quarantine as per protocols of the local government of destination,” the DOH said.

Meantime, about 12 of the additional 14 Alpha variant cases are local, while the two are being verified as either local or ROF cases.

The case line list showed that two cases have died, and 12 cases have been tagged as recovered.

To date, the Alpha variant, first detected in the UK, cases in the country is now 1,085.

For the 21 Beta variant cases detected, 20 are local cases while one case is being verified either as local or ROF case. The Beta variant first emerged in South Africa.

The 20 cases have been tagged as recovered and one case is currently active. The country’s total number of Beta variant cases is now 1,267.

While the additional Theta variant case has already been tagged as recovered, the DOH said it is still being verified as a local or an ROF case. This variant was first identified in the Philippines.

“Currently, the Theta variant is not identified as a variant of concern since more data is needed to conclude whether the variant will have significant public health implications,” it added.

Health authorities assured the public that biosurveillance activities for the detection of Covid-19 variants would continue amid the increase in cases in the Visayas and Mindanao.

To date, the UP-PGC and UP-NIH have sequenced a total of 7,589 Covid-19-positive samples, according to the DOH.

Of these, 2,534 have variants being closely monitored by DOH with only 19 cases remaining active.

Earlier, the DOH granted PHP180 million to the UP-PGC for the procurement of reagents for whole-genome sequencing for the rest of the year.

The reagents are expected to arrive within the week at the UP-PGC.

“These reagents will allow the UP-PGC, and UP-NIH to sequence samples of COVID-19 cases regularly until the end of the year, ensuring that the government will have essential information in mitigating the spread of Covid-19,” the DOH said.

Strict quarantine system

In a press conference Monday, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. said the quarantine system should be turned over to the local government units (LGU), specifically to mayors, as they can more vigilantly uphold the quarantine of households.

“Pag-turn over sa LGU, dito hihigpitan talaga ng mga alkalde natin, hihigpitan ng husto to make sure walang lalabas ng bahay at (After the turnover to LGU, it is where our mayors will be more strict, they will intensify security to make sure that no one leaves their homes) to serve the full quarantine days. This is for everyone,” Abalos said.

He said the Metro Manila Council has met with the national government, the DOH, and other health experts to discuss measures on how to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

“Number one, sa PDITR (Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate), continuous ang monitoring. Napaka-importante ng testing, at higit sa lahat napaka-importante ang agarang isolation (Number one, based on PDITR, we’re continuously monitoring. Testing is very important, and most of all, immediate isolation is very important),” Abalos said.

He said that there is no known spread of the Delta variant in Metro Manila, noting that confirmed cases have all come from outside the country.

“Kung kaya't importante rito ang pagbabantay ng airport and of course mga pier natin. And sa puntong ito, 'yung quarantine system natin sa ngayon (What’s important now is vigilance in our airports and piers. And at this point, our quarantine system now),” Abalos said. (PNA)