MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday urged the public to practice "maximum observance" of health protocols amid the detection of the "first local cases" of the more contagious Delta variant, adding that the government must expedite the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to avoid another surge.
"Kailangan handa tayo. Ayaw na nating magkaroon ng surge pa ulit. Maximum na pag-observe ng protocols gawin na natin... [Sana yung] deployment ng mga vaccines mas lalong bumilis, triple pa ng bilis," Robredo said in a video message uploaded on her Facebook page.
Robredo issued the statement as the Department of Health detected 16 new Delta variant cases in the Philippines, including the first local cases, based on the latest whole genome sequencing report.
The agency pointed out that it is still investigating if the local cases have already led to local transmissions.
The Delta variant, which was first detected in India, is more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain due to the presence of the L452R mutation, which allows the virus to get past the immune system and spread faster in cells.
According to Robredo, this report should serve as a reminder to Filipinos not to be complacent in observing health protocols.
"Isang bagay na dapat paghandaan natin at dahil nakita natin yung karanasan ng ibang bansa gaya ng Indonesia na nagkaroon ng napakaraming kaso kasi sobrang bilis na pagkalat nitong klaseng variant na ito," she said.
Indonesia is grappling with a new surge of infections driven by the presence of the Delta variant, increased mobility, and religious gatherings.
Robredo reiterated the importance of wearing a mask, avoiding crowded areas, practicing physical distancing, and inoculation.
"Yung di pa nababakunahan sana makapagpabakina tayo. Yung nabakunahan sana di naman tayo masyadong kampante," she said.
Robredo's office has partnered with private firms, volunteers, and some local governments to increase COVID19 testing through swab cabs. Her office also recently offered vaccinations for delivery riders and public utility vehicle drivers. The Office of the Vice President is also running a free online consultation program, which includes sending COVID care kits to virus positive patients.
The Philippines on Friday tallied 5,676 more COVID-19 infections, as total recorded cases stood at 1,496,328, with active cases reaching 48,480 or 3.2 percent of the cumulative total.
At least 4 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against the disease, while more than 10 million already received their first shot, data collated by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed.