Gov't must tighten measures amid concern on Delta variant — PH Genome Center exec

Published June 23, 2021, 2:09 PM

by Analou de Vera


The Philippine Genome Center (PGC) urged Wednesday, June 23, the government to tighten its response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic amid concerns on the Delta variant.

The proper implementation of the different measures on COVID-19 is important to prevent the entry of more variant cases in the country, said PGC Health Program Director Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-Dela Paz in a media forum hosted by the Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday, June 23.

“Strict border control is really crucial because it will block the entry of the Delta variant. It will also buy us time. We want to be able to vaccinate more people to bring down our cases,” she said.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges—to really bring down the cases through vaccination and minimum public health standards, and the PDITR (prevent, detect, isolate, trace, and reintegrate) strategies,” she said.

Delta variant

Dela Paz said that the Delta variant, which originated in India, “is quickly spreading around the world.”

This variant has already spread in 85 countries. In the Philippines, 17 cases were detected—all were overseas returning Filipinos, she said.

“According to the WHO, the Delta variant is the fastest and fittest coronavirus strain yet, and it will ‘pick off’ the most vulnerable people, especially in places with low COVID-19 vaccination rates,” she said.

“As of June 14, the CDC reports that the Delta variant accounted for 10 percent of cases in the US; new reports say at 31 percent,” she added.

Dela Paz noted that this variant is “more transmissible.”

“In the UK, it has rapidly overtaken the Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant, which was itself 40 percent more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2,” she said.

“Delta currently accounts for more than 91 percent of UK COVID-19 cases, and is around 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant,” she added.

With this variant, “more people are likely to be hospitalized,” said Dela Paz.

“In Southeast China, there are reports that patients are becoming sicker and their conditions deteriorate more quickly than the patients they treated with the original virus,” she said.

“On the evidence from England and Scotland— suggest that people infected with Delta are about two times likely to end up in the hospital compared with those infected with Alpha, which was their previous dominant strain,” she added.

Delta Plus variant

Dela Paz, meanwhile, noted that the “Delta Plus” may be more transmissible than its original variant. “I think that is certainly possible,” Dela Paz said.

The expert also added that this variant has “all the signature mutations of the known delta variant” plus other mutations.

“This can affect how the virus will behave, how it will latch on to cells,” she said.

Based on a report from Reuters, the India’s Ministry of Health declared a new coronavirus variant “to be of concern.”

“The variant, identified locally as ‘Delta plus,’ was found in 16 cases in the state of Maharashtra,” Reuters reported.

Dela Paz, meanwhile, said that further studies are needed to determine the characteristic of the Delta Plus variant.

“There are only more than a dozen of cases of this supposed Delta Plus variant. Even the Ministry of Health of India said they still need to evaluate this additional mutation of the original Delta variant,” said.