Experts warn on possible adverse effect of Delta variant on PH’s healthcare system

Published July 25, 2021, 12:54 AM

by Analou de Vera

In this photo taken on September 19, 2020, people wearing face shields queue up at a public market in Manila. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN/ FILE PHOTO)

The country’s health experts warned that the Delta variant of the coronavirus can cause immense pressure on the healthcare system if its spread will not be mitigated.

“What we are seeing is continuing to be scary. We call Delta the fastest and the fittest virus,” said infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana during the Cabinet meeting on Saturday night, July 24.

“It is three times more contagious than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and it seems to be deadlier. This will be worse if the healthcare system is overwhelmed. Patients also seem to get sicker and younger ages can also develop severe disease,” he added.

Salvana said that a person carrying the Delta variant may infect at least eight people unlike with the original SARS-CoV-2 virus—which can infect at least two people only.

“Itong Delta eight people pwede niyang i-infect (The Delta variant can infect eight people) and those eight can each infect another eight, kaya nakikita natin yung sa India at Indonesia—ang bilis bilis. Exponential talaga ang spread (that is why we see a fast transmission in India and Indonesia.The spread is really exponential),” he said.

He also said that the Delta variant has “1,000 times more virus particles than the original virus.”

“There is also a longer duration of infectiousness. There is also a faster time from becoming infectious from the time you are exposed. Dati, it takes about three days bago ka nakakahawa ng mga tao. Ngayon, mga 30 hours lang pwede ng makahawa (Previously, it takes about three days before you infect people. Now, it’s only about 30 hours),” said Salvana.

“Yung sinasabi natin dati na close contact na at least 15 minutes, nakita nila, even in Australia and China, minsan one or two minutes lang pwede ng mahawa (The previous definition of close contact of at least 15 minutes, based in Australia and China, sometimes you can be infected in just one to two minutes). So this is a very contagious virus,” he added.

Department of Health-Technical Advisory Group (DOH-TAG) member Dr. Anna Ong-Lim said it is important to ensure that the healthcare system is “actually ready” to manage a possible surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.

“Dapat laging ready ang ating healthcare capacity. There should be sufficient temporary treatment and monitoring facilities and ICU capacity,” said Ong-Lim.

“As per IATF resolution, we are calling our hospitals to increase their COVID-19 bed capacity to 30 percent for the private hospitals and 50 percent for the public hospitals to ensure that should a surge happen, we will have enough beds available,” she added.

“We need to prepare for the needed augmentation in anticipation of surge—human resources, temporary treatment and monitoring facilities and hospital beds, oxygen supply, and medicines,” she furthered.

Granular lockdowns

Ong-Lim also called on the local government units (LGUs) to implement granular lockdowns if necessary. This type of lockdown is imposed on barangays where COVID-19 cases are high.

“With implemented target response strategies, we hope to be able to reduce transmission at the same time, also reduce the economic strain,” she said.

She also urged the LGUs to further strengthen their disease surveillance.

“With the confirmation of local transmission of the Delta variant, we need to work on the premise that every case that’s now detected is Delta so that we can act accordingly,” said Ong-Lim.

Ong-Lim also emphasized the importance of border control.

“Despite the data showing that there is already local transmission, border control continues to be a very critical component that we hope will continue to slow entry of more individuals who are positive not just for Delta but also other variants of concern that may be discovered in the future,” she said.

“After completing the 10-day facility quarantine, the LGUs are enjoined to continue to enforce their monitoring of the arrivals for the remaining four days of the standard 14-day quarantine,” she added.

Vaccination and minimum public health standards

The key to defeat this Delta variant and other variants of concern is through vaccination and strictly adhering to the health protocols, said Salvana.

“We have to vaccinate everyone. We just really need to make sure na mag level up din yung ating compliance (that our compliance also levels up) because the virus has really leveled up. The treatment remains the same,” he said.

“Deaths are going down in countries with high vaccination rates. So tama yung ginagawa natin (So what we are doing is right). Continue to vaccinate,” he added.

Salvana expressed hope that the country “can avoid a surge that is really devastating our ASEAN neighbors.”