PH yet to detect case of Lambda COVID-19 variant; stricter border control eyed – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   July 6, 2021   •   299

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is looking to recommend stricter border control to  keep out the potentially more contagious Lambda COVID-19 variant.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines has yet to detect any case of the Lambda variant but he stressed that stricter border control may be necessary to prevent the variant from entering the country.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Lambda variant (C.37) was first detected in Peru in December 2020. Its presence has so far been reported in more than 30 countries.

“Sa ngayon po, ito ay napag alaman kumakalat na sa bansang Peru at sa 35 iba pang Latin American countries. Sa ngayon po, batay sa submission ng ating Philippine Genome Center, wala pa, wala pa po tayong natukoy o na-diskubre na C.37 variant,” Duque said.

The Health Ministry of Malaysia earlier reported that the Lambda variant is feared to be “more infectious” than the Delta variant.

But the WHO said there is still not enough information to say that the Lambda mutation is more contagious than other identified COVID-19 variants.

The Lambda variant is still considered a variant of interest (VOI) as it shares similar attributes to the highly transmissible Delta variant that first emerged in India.

Variants under VOI are different from those classified as variants of concern (VOC).

According to the WHO, a variant is classified as a VOC if there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.

Variants classified as VOC include Alpha (first reported in the United Kingdom), Beta (South Africa), Gamma (Brazil), and Delta (India).

“Hindi pa siya kinikilala ng WHO bilang variant of concern. Sa kasalukuyan, siya po ay isang Variant of Interest… Kinakailngan po talaga bantayan natin ito dahil baka biglang maging Variant of Concern,” Duque said.

“So ano ang gagawin natin? Patuloy na paigtingin ang ating border control para makasiguro na hindi ito makalusot mula sa ating mga ROFs or OFWs,” he added.

The DOH also urged the public to continue observing health protocols and get vaccinated against coronavirus disease as it offers protection against severe forms of COVID-19.

IATF amends guidelines in NCR alert level 4 restrictions

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (AITF-MEID) has amended the guidelines for the implementation of the Alert Level 4 in the National Capital Region (NCR), Malacañang said Friday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the revised guidelines will take effect on October 1 should the pilot implementation of the alert level system be extended next month.

The new strategy is being imposed in virus hotspots in the NCR until September 30.

The amendments recently approved by the IATF include allowing individual outdoor exercises within general area of residence for persons not required to remain in their respective homes.

Authorities earlier allowed outdoor exercises for residents regardless of health and vaccination status, but they shall only be limited to moving within their village or barangay.

Gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment, funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 and for the cremains of COVID-19 deceased shall be allowed.

Attendance to these services, however, will only be limited to immediate family members, the IATF said.

All contact sports, whether indoor or outdoor, will remain prohibited. Those being conducted under a “bubble-type” setup are exempted.

Personal care establishments and home services are still not allowed. These services include aesthetic and cosmetic services or procedures, make up services, spas, reflexology, wellness, and holistic services and other similar procedures.

Positive COVID-19 antigen test results now included in case count – IATF

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The number of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 through rapid antigen tests will now be included in the Philippines’ case count, Malacañang said Friday.

In a televised briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) reached the decision during their meeting on Thursday in an aim to improve the reporting of COVID-19 cases.

“’Yan po ang ating objective para mas maging mabuti yung picture natin kung ilan ang total cases natin,” Roque said.

He, however, clarified that these tests will be subjected to confirmatory tests.

The use of antigen test is mostly effective for people who already manifested symptoms within the first five days of their onset as the viral load of the patient is at the highest during this time.

In line with this, the IATF directed the Department of Health NCR Center for Health Development to monitor and facilitate registration of facilities using rapid antigen kits.

They must also ensure that antigen line tests are collected and consolidated from health facilities, localities, as well as temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.

“Kaugnay nito, ang Department of Health NCR Center for Health Development ay inatasang mag-facilitate ng registration ng facilities na gumagamit ng rapid antigen kits,” he said.

“Augmentation of disease surveillance surveillance staff and encoders are considered to ensure that line lists are generated and submitted on a daily basis,” he added.

As of Sept. 23, the Philippines has 165,780 active COVID-19 cases based on DOH data.

Duterte asks PNP, AFP to deploy medical personnel to hospitals needing more staff

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prepare for the deployment of their medical personnel to hospitals that are in need of additional manpower.

“Kung wala nang iba, ‘yung mga nurses sa pulis marami yan, pati sa medical corps ng army. I have to use a little of my influence sa kanila to convince them,” Duterte said in a taped public address aired late Wednesday.

“Please place your human resources on ready, on deck because talagang alam mo yun lang madali kong maasahan,” he added.

Duterte issued the statement after receiving reports that a lot of medical personnel, particularly in St. Luke’s Medical Center were unable to go on duty due to COVID-19 infection.

The AFP said it has started deploying a number of its personnel to some hospitals in Metro Manila as it continues look for more nurses from its ranks.

The PNP, for its part, said it is currently accounting the number of its medical teams that could be deployed to assist medical workers amid rising cases of COVID-19.

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