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Delta variant community transmission present in the country —Philippine Genome Center

The Philippine Genome Center (PGC) on Saturday said there is already a community transmission of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the country.

"When we look at the samples in June, it’s already community transmission as so, with all due respect to their experts in the DOH. From our point of view at the Philippine Genome Center, we’ve talked with our bioinformaticians, we are looking at the cases at marami na pong link (there are lots of link). Meaning to say, ang haba na po ng tree, ng branch ng tree na hindi mo na malaman kung saan sila nanggaling (the tree has many branches that you don't know anymore where [a case] came from)," PGC Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma said in an interview on Dobol B TV.

"Sa aking palagay, may kinalaman ang Delta variant sa pagtaas ng mga kaso ng COVID-19," she added.

(In my opinion, the Delta variant is a factor in the increase of COVID-19 cases.)

"Ang Delta talaga ang bilis talaga kumalat. Pero kung na-vaccinate ‘yung mga tao, siyempre ma-prevent sana natin ‘yung hospitalization at saka death," Saloma added.

(The Delta variant really gets transmitted fast. But if people get vaccinated, the hospitalization and death may be prevented.)

Interviewed during the Laging Handa public briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire agreed that based on the samples and results coming from the PGC there is an apparent community transmission of the Delta variant already.

“Mukhang ‘yan po talaga ang pinapakita na that community transmission is there,” she said.

(It looks like that community transmission is there.)

“But as I always say, mula pa noong umpisa we treat this as if there is community transmission at ‘yon na po ang mga aksyon na ginagawa natin,” Vergeire said.

(From the very start we treat this as if there is community transmission and that is the actions we are undertaking.)

Nonetheless, the Health official said there is a need for enough evidence “so we can officially declare.”

“Government has already pursued actions when it comes to this transmission level sa ating bansa (in our country) at ‘yun na ang naging aksyon natin mula pa noong umpisa (and that were our actions since the beginning),” Vergeire said.

Genome sequencing

"Based on what we have already sequenced... based on the national average, for example in the national, we saw about 5% of Delta variant cases in June. But when July came, the 5% in the sequence samples became 48% that fast," Saloma said in a mix of Filipino and English.

"In the National Capital Region, less than 5% of Delta cases was recorded out of the sequence samples that were swabbed in June... But came July, it reached 68%," Saloma added.

"Based on the data of the 5% to 48% and 5% to 68%, in my opinion, the Delta variant has something to do with this to a large degree, as well as to our ASEAN neighbors," she said.

Saloma said they have sequenced 11,000 samples since January, and determined only one Lambda COVID-19 variant so far.

Meanwhile, only about 4,000 Lambda variant cases were recorded in the global database.

"At least for now, with the data that we have on hand, hindi pa naman po nakababahala itong Lambda variant (the Lambda variant is not that threatening)," Saloma said, adding that the data on the Lambda variant is declining.

Saloma said the PGC's genome centers in the Visayas and the Mindanao have already received additional funding from the government for their satellite facilities.

Through the satellite facilities, Saloma said the country will have the ability to conduct 350 sequences in Mindanao and 350 sequences in Visayas.

Meanwhile, sequences could be doubled to 750 to 1,500 a week in the NCR.

"We are poised to be able to sequence 2,200 cases by the end of the year," she said.

The Delta variant which originated in India is still the primary threat in the country despite the detection of the Lambda variant, originally from Peru, in the country, the OCTA Research group said earlier this week.

The Philippines on Friday logged a new all-time high 17,231 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the nationwide tally to 1,807,800.

The previous highest daily increase was at 15,310 on April 2.

Total active cases were 123,251; recoveries at 1,653,351; and the death toll at 31,198. —with reports from Ted Cordero and Jamil Santos/KG, GMA News