Better contact tracing measures called for amid new confirmed Delta variant cases

July 16, 2021 - 5:52 PM
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People wearing face masks and face shields as protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) queue outside a grocery store in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 28, 2021. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

The confirmed Delta variant cases in the Philippines prompted renewed calls for better contact tracing measures from the national government.

The Department of Health announced on Friday, July 16 that there are 16 new Delta variant cases detected where 15 have fully recovered and one had died.

In a news conference, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the one death case succumbed to the disease after being rushed to a hospital in Manila on June 28.

Vergeire further stated that of these 16 cases, 11 were tagged as local cases.

Five who tested positive for the more contagious variant were Filipinos who returned from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the United Kingdom, countries that are also struggling with suppressing the Delta variant infections among their residents.

READ: Philippines detects first local transmission of Delta variant

The 11 local cases, meanwhile, were detected in these areas: two from Manila, five from Cagayan de Oro, one from Misamis Oriental, two from Antique and one from Pampanga.

Vergeire described the detection of cases of variants of concerns as “sporadic.”

“’Yung ating mga kaso dito ay paisa-isa sa bawat lugar. We call it sporadic,” she said.

There are five variants

In an infographic released on Friday, DOH announced that as of July 15 there are 20 active cases of Alpha variant (first detected in the United Kingdom), 21 of Beta variant (first detected in South Africa) and 1 Theta variant (first detected in the Philippines).

 

The fifth variant detected in the country is identified as Gamma. It was first detected in Brazil.

Overall, here is the breakdown of the cases of variants of concerns detected in the country:

  • Alpha: 1,481 (five cases for verification)
  • Beta: 1,685 (two cases for verification)
  • Delta: 35 (no active cases)
  • Gamma: 2 (no active cases)
  • Theta: 221

The health department also called on the local government units (LGUs) to strengthen their strategies and approach to suppress transmissions of these cases within their respective constituents.

It also urged the public to cooperate in complying with the preventive measures against COVID-19 and its variants.

“The Department of Health calls on LGUs to ensure that protocols for Doors 3 and 4 of the 4-door strategy are in place and be further enhanced. We need to strengthen the implementation of our PDITR strategies and expand the capacity of the local healthcare capacity to manage possible surge in cases,” DOH said.

“We also call for public’s cooperation to choose to be protected against COVID-19 by continuously following the minimum public health stands and through vaccination,” it added.

Calls for better contract tracing

The additional Delta cases triggered public alarm and concern on social media.

Some users noted the timing of the current shortage of COVID-19 vaccine supply in the country.

“May local transmission na ang delta variant. Ang dami pang walang 2nd dose, or 1st dose for that matter. Hay,” one user wrote.

Some users also demanded better contract tracing measures to stop the spread of Delta variant.

“Sige rely on StaySafe pa more. Get some real contact tracing done now,” one user said.

“Six cases with Delta variant were part of a larger cluster with onset between June 23 and 28. That large cluster should be traced further. Assume that cluster is wholly due to the Delta variant. PAANO NAKARATING NG NORTHERN MINDANAO ANG VARIANT?” one user said.

Others, meanwhile, called on the government to close borders anew, particularly to neighbors with high cases of variants of concerns.

“We are too slow in imposing travel ban!” one user said.

“Close the border already, not just to Indonesia, but to Malaysia and Thailand or the rest of Southeast Asia already,” another user said.

Last Wednesday, Palace announced that the country will ban travelers coming from Indonesia to prevent the spread of the highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant.

It will be imposed from July 16 to 31.

Meanwhile, the national government currently has no unified contact tracing platform system.

Businesses and LGUs are divided between using the StaySafe.ph and the SafePass since they were introduced last year.

It endorsed the use of the StaySafe.ph as the country’s supposed official contact tracing program in September 2020.

RELATED: Nearly a year after launch, contact tracing program StaySafe.ph still under DILG study, learning stage

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, on the other hand, also adopted another application called SafePass for businesses last year.

RELATED: ‘Too late’: Criticisms as House bares lack of unified contact tracing system in Philippines