Philippines reports first locally transmitted cases of Delta variant

The Philippines, one of the worst-hit countries from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in south Asia, on Friday recorded its first local cases of the highly infectious delta variant of the virus, the health ministry said, according to news agency Reuters.

Addressing a press conference on Friday, the Philippines’ health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that 16 new cases of the Delta variant have been identified in the country so far of which 11 are locally transmitted cases. The remaining five who tested positive for the variant are Filipinos who came back from the United Kingdom (UK), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. One person succumbed to the variant after being rushed to a hospital in the capital city of Manali on June 28, Vergeire added.

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Authorities in the Philippines are currently struggling to arrest the spread of the variant as it has led to a recent spike in daily cases and deaths. The country on Thursday recorded 5,221 new cases while 82 more people succumbed to the viral disease, taking the caseload and death toll to 1,490,665 and 26,314 respectively. On Wednesday, 3,806 cases and 140 deaths were reported. The Philippines currently has the second-highest Covid-19 caseload across South Asia.

Apart from the Delta variant, the Philippines also has its own variant of Covid-19 called P.3, which was downgraded by WHO from a variant of interest to an alert for further monitoring, according to a report by GMA news online on Tuesday. The P.3 variant, first identified in the country in mid- February this year, has infected 166 people, the GMA news online report added.

With regard to vaccination, the Philippines has administered 13,442,299 doses, which are sufficient for just 6.2 per cent of its population based on a two-dose regimen, data compiled by Reuters showed on Friday. The country will receive 3.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine during this month from the United States.

The Delta variant, which was first detected in India in October last year, has wreaked havoc across the globe with more than 111 countries reporting cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday the spread of the variant is leading to an increase in cases and deaths due to the Covid-19. “We expect it (Delta variant) to soon be the dominant Covid-19 strain circulating worldwide if it isn’t already,” Ghebreyesus added.

(With Reuters inputs)