Duque urges LGUs with limited COVID-19 testing capacity to ramp up 'symptoms screening'

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 22 2021 05:58 PM | Updated as of Jul 22 2021 05:59 PM

Duque urges LGUs with limited COVID-19 testing capacity to ramp up 'symptoms screening' 1
Members of the Quezon City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance conduct COVID-19 swab testing for residents along Dupax Street in Barangay Old Balara on May 31, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Thursday local government units (LGUs) with finite testing capacity for COVID-19 should employ "very aggressive" detection, isolation and contact-tracing measures to "cut the chain of transmission" amid the threat of the more contagious Delta variant.

"I reiterate my reminder to local chief executives: kung nahirapan pa sa testing, basta’t may suspicion na kayo at saka you do a symptom screening, exposure screening, then you isolate, and then contact-trace and then isolate those who are exposed," Duque said on the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony for Ayala Corporation’s Healthway Cancer Care Center in FTI, Taguig.

The Health chief maintained "there is no evidence" yet showing local transmission of the highly transmissible coronavirus Delta variant, but it would be safer "to assume" it already exists so that vigilance remains high. 

"As we ramp up our response, our capacities, we need to assume na meron nang local transmission. But there is yet no evidence to establish [local transmission] because investigations are ongoing to link these identified local cases to an international traveler who might have brought it in," Duque said. 

The DOH on Thursday reported 12 new cases of the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, all of which are considered local cases. 

In its latest bulletin, the Health department said all 12 have already recovered but "their outcomes" are still under validation through the agency's regional and local health offices. 

The country now has a total of 47 Delta variant cases, of which 8 are active. 

Duque said the Apha and Beta strains remain to be dominant in the Philippines, with “23-24% [of positive cases involving] Beta and the rest, Alpha”.

The latest biosurveillance report of the Philippine Genome Center showed that of the 8,930 samples that were sequenced, 1,827 were found to be of the Beta variant, which was first detected in South Africa; 1,668 were of the Alpha variant, first detected in the UK; 2 are of the Gamma variant, first detected in Brazil; and 233 are of the P.3 variant, first detected in the Philippines.

Of those, 18 Alpha variant cases, 17 Beta variant cases, and 1 P.3 variant cases are active.

With over 120 countries reporting incidence of Delta variant infections, Duque agrees with the concern of international health experts that it could be the dominant variant in a matter of months.

"That’s not an impossibility. We are doing everything to improve our response, to increase our capacities: more beds, more ICU beds, more oxygen tanks… Let’s plan for a surge so we can double the capacity."

As of Thursday, the Philippines has recorded a total of 1,530,266 COVID-19 infections, of which 50,562 or 3.3 percent are active. 

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