Local transmission

Local transmission

An official of the Department of Health had described it as “inevitable.” And true enough, the DOH announced yesterday that 11 cases of local transmission of the more virulent Delta variant of the COVID virus had been confirmed across the country, with one death recorded in the city of Manila.

In all, there were 16 new Delta infections, 10 of them females aged 14 to 79, the DOH reported. Of the 11 infections within the country, two were in the city of Manila, five in Cagayan de Oro, two in Antique and one in Misamis Oriental. The DOH fell short of declaring a community transmission – meaning the source of infection can no longer be traced – but it noted that case “clustering” had been recorded in Western Visayas and Northern Mindanao.

The country now has a total of 35 Delta variant cases, apart from 264 new cases of the Alpha variant that was first reported in the United Kingdom, and 299 new cases of the Beta variant from South Africa. Delta, first recorded in India, had devastated that country and is now ravaging Indonesia and Thailand. Delta is also becoming the dominant strain in the United States, where breakthrough COVID infections are increasingly being reported among those fully inoculated with US-made vaccines.

All the Delta infections in the Philippines were “100 percent sourced from abroad,” with links to clusters in India, the United Arab Emirates and Southeast Asia, according to the Philippine Genome Center. So it makes sense for the Philippines to impose a travel ban on more countries where the Delta variant is now on a rampage.

At the same time, with community transmission of the Delta variant now also looking inevitable, the government must review the easing of restrictions on children aged five and older. Images in many areas show children largely unsupervised by adults while playing outdoors, without masks and unmindful of physical distancing.

While children are known to have strong immunity to COVID-19, there have been reports of pediatric infections and even deaths. Children can also be carriers and can infect vulnerable members of the household such as the elderly, those with comorbidities, and persons who are not vaccinated.

The World Health Organization has warned that the pandemic is far from over and more dangerous variants could take hold. The Philippines is just one short step away from community transmission of the Delta variant. While the country can’t remain on perpetual lockdown, the spread of more virulent variants heightens the need for strict compliance with basic health safety protocols and tighter border controls.