Philippines eyes 'total health' after detecting first local cases of Delta COVID-19 variant


Posted at Jul 19 2021 09:54 PM | Updated as of Jul 19 2021 11:10 PM

Philippines eyes 'total health' after detecting first local cases of Delta COVID-19 variant 1
People queue outside the Ospital ng Maynila as the city opened 7 hospitals for COVID-19 vaccination on Monday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Philippine government eyes promoting "total health", Malacañang said on Monday, after the country detected its first local cases of the highly transmissible Delta COVID-19 variant. 

Sixteen people had been found with the Delta variant, including 5 who had returned from abroad. The other 11 were locally acquired cases, the health department said on Friday. 

"We are aiming to promote total health," Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque said, when asked if government would tighten protocols. 

He said while authorities want to arrest the spread of the variant, they are also preventing more people from going hungry should vast swaths of the country be placed under stricter lockdown. 

"Ang ating stratehiya, hanggat maaari, we will have localized lockdowns, nang sa gayoon makapagpatuloy na makapaghanapbuhay ang ating mga kababayan," he said in a press briefing. 

(Our strategy, as much as possible, is we will have localized lockdowns, so that our compatriots can continue working.) 

Health Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire noted that while 4 areas have been placed under the strictest quarantine level, Manila, where one patient died after being hospitalized, was told to only impose granular lockdowns because COVID-19 cases were "manageable." 

"But everyday, we will be assessing kung kailangan nating i-escalate ang restriction," she said in the same briefing. 

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"Makikipag-usap tayo mamaya sa mga eksperto, kung ano pa ho ‘yong iba pa hong precautionary measures na kailangan nating gawin for us to contain the spread of this variant," added the official. 

(But everyday, we will be assessing if we need to escalate the restriction. We will talk later to experts about the other precautionary measures we need to do for us to contain the spread of this variant.) 

The Philippines is battling one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Asia, but infection numbers have been declining since peaking in March and April, allowing for a gradual relaxation of restrictions.

Authorities have been scrambling to try and stop the Delta variant from spreading after it has helped trigger a surge in infections across Southeast Asia. 

The Philippines has banned travelers from 8 countries including India, Indonesia and the UAE until the end of July.

But while tightening border controls to keep the Delta variant out, authorities have been loosening other curbs, including allowing limited gatherings and permitting children aged 5 and above to go outdoors.

With more than 1.5 million cases and 26,786 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest number of infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, and the detection of the Delta variant could slow the country's return to normalcy. 

– With a report from Reuters