MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippines is now experiencing community transmission of the COVID-19 Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said.
More than "70 percent of the current transmission is attributable to the Delta variant," said WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe in an online press conference.
"This situation is not entirely surprising... What we are seeing in the Philippines is not unique. It is being seen in other countries," he said.
As of August 27, 516 or 68.98 percent of 748 samples sequenced were confirmed to be carriers of the more virulent Delta variant, according to data from the Department of Health (DOH).
The Beta variant accounted for 10.83 percent, while the Alpha variant was found in 9.76 percent of the samples, data showed.
The information from the WHO comes a day after the Philippines reported 22,366 new COVID-19 cases, its highest single-day tally since the pandemic began early last year.
"The DOH also observed that most of the more transmissible Delta variant were detected in Regions IV-A, III, and NCR," the DOH said in a statement.
"Since its detection in July, Delta variant cases showed a steady increase and constituted a greater percentage in the recent sequencing runs compared to the Beta and Alpha variants," it said.
The DOH said "enhanced national response has been in place since [the] detection of these variants of concern locally."
"From the start, we have responded as if there is already community transmission," the agency said.
Last week, the DOH said the Delta variant has been detected in all regions except the Bangsamoro.
The WHO said it expects the COVID-19 Delta variant to continue to spread in the country as it has in other parts of the world.
"This is a pandemic. It is going to go everywhere. We need to prioritize protecting the most vulnerable," Abeyasinghe said, noting that only 22-40 percent of the elderly in some regions have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
"We reduce the number of severe and critical cases, we reduce the burden on health system," he said.