MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday confirmed local transmission of Delta COVID-19 variant cases in the Philippines.
The DOH said the development came following the "phylogenetic analysis" made by the Philippine Genome Center as well as the agency's case investigation through its Epidemiology Bureau.
"Clusters of Delta variant cases were seen to be linked to other local cases, therefore, exhibiting local transmission," the DOH said in a statement.
For context, the term "local transmission" is used if there is evidence that a local case has already transmitted the virus to another local case, Health Epidemiology Bureau Dir. Alethea De Guzman earlier said.
The DOH earlier Thursday reported 12 new local cases of the Delta variant, which first emerged in India, bringing the Philippines' total cases of the strain to 47.
Eight of them are still active, according to the department, all of whom remained unvaccinated from the disease, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said this week.
Independent research unit OCTA also early Thursday said the spike of new infections in the capital region is likely driven by the Delta variant, which could signal the onset of a fresh surge.
Vergeire on Wednesday night said the Alpha and Beta variants, those that first emerged in the United Kingdom and South Africa, respectively, were behind the relatively high cases in Metro Manila, citing evidence they gathered.
INTENSIFIED PANDEMIC RESPONSE
The DOH said government has intensified COVID-19 response in areas where Delta variant cases were detected.
"Both the national and local governments have been continuously working together to intensify the implementation of the prevent, detect, isolate, treat, and re-integrate response strategies and increase the country’s health system capacity to be able to manage cases," the agency said.
The DOH called on the public to continue observing COVID-19 protocols, such as physical distancing, avoiding mass gatherings, and wearing proper protective equipment.
"Moreover, the public is advised to avoid unnecessary travels and gatherings. DOH urges LGUs to shorten the duration of case detection to isolation and immediately isolate symptomatic patients, and ramp up their vaccination and prioritize the senior citizens and people with underlying conditions," it said.
Philippine authorities are currently keeping guard against the spread of the Delta variant, as experts tagged the strain behind the overwhelming infections in India and Indonesia, stretching the countries' health care capacity.
Health officials have said that vaccination against the respiratory disease is key to prevent being infected with it, as well as stop the spread of the strain.
As of Wednesday, the government has been able to administer nearly 16 million doses, of which 10.7 million are first doses.
A total of 5.23 million Filipinos, meanwhile, are fully vaccinated from the virus, accounting for 8.67 percent of the minimum 58 million target by yearend, data from the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed.
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.
It remains a variant of concern, along with 3 other variants of the virus that are seen as more dangerous than the original version because they are more transmissible, deadly or have the potential to get past some vaccine protections.
The World Health Organization projected that the Delta variant will become the dominant strain of the virus over the coming months, already accounting for more than three-quarters of sequenced specimens in many major countries.
The strain has now been recorded in 124 territories — 13 more than last week.
Philippines has so far tallied 1.53 million COVID-19 cases, of which 50,000 are still active cases.
Deaths reached nearly 27,000 as of Thursday.