Frightening frame, this.
Very recently, in the 11th batch of specimens subjected to Whole Genome Sequencing, the Department of Health, the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center, and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) have detected 46 additional B.1.1.7 variant cases, 62 additional B.1.351 variant cases, and six additional P.3 variant cases.
These additional cases were among the 150 samples composed mostly of samples from National Capital Region laboratories. Information of cases with these variants is being investigated and verified.
The DOH urges the public to stay at home unless extremely necessary and remember to avoid the three Cs (Closed spaces, Crowded places, and Close contact settings).
With the upcoming Holy Week, the DOH encourages everyone to avoid large congregations and practice religious activities at home.
Strict adherence to the minimum public health standards in all private and public settings is strongly emphasized to minimize COVID-19 transmission and avoid further mutations.
Of the additional 46 B.1.1.7 variant cases, 36 are local cases from the National Capital Region, two are Returning Overseas Filipinos, and eight cases are currently being verified if they are local or Returning Overseas Filipino cases.
This brings the total number of B.1.1.7 cases in the country to 223. As to status, the case database shows that 45 cases are still active and one is already recovered.
The two ROFs detected have the following regions as their indicated addresses: Cagayan Valley and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Of the 62 B.1.351 variant cases, 43 are local cases and 19 are being verified if they are local or ROF cases.
This brings the total number of B.1.351 cases in the country to 152. Of the 43 local cases, 41 are from NCR and two are from CALABARZON. Based on the case line list, 60 cases are still active and two have recovered.
On P.3 variant cases, of the six additional cases, four are local cases and two are being verified if they are local cases or ROFs. The four local cases are from NCR. All six cases are currently active.
The DOH, UP-PGC, and UP-NIH emphasize that at present, the P.3 variant is still not identified as a variant of concern as current available data are insufficient to conclude whether the variant will have significant public health implications.
Meanwhile, the OCTA Research Group said new daily cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines could reach up to 10,000 by the end of the month, half likely to be recorded in Metro Manila if the current daily trend continued.
“We’re likely to see 5,000 cases in NCR (National Capital Region) alone by end of the month, and at least 10,000 cases nationwide by end of the month,” according to OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David.
On Friday, the Philippines reported 7,103 new COVID-19 cases, the highest recorded daily tally in the country since the start of the pandemic last year.
Authorities are pointing to lax compliance with quarantine regulations over vaccine optimism, and the spread of more transmissible COVID-19 variants as possible reasons for the surge.
He said: “In terms of numbers, this record-breaking number is not the full [impact], this is just the first record-breaking figure, sad to say.
“We don’t want that to happen but that’s the truth because there is momentum in the trend, the pandemic has momentum right now and it’s hard to stop that momentum especially at this level where we’re getting 7,000 cases, 3,800 in Metro Manila.”
Under the present scenario, the Philippine National Police has established checkpoints in strategic areas of the so-called “NCR plus” that include Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, and nearby provinces bordering them.
In an interview with GMA’s “Unang Hirit” Monday, PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said the border control would be enforced by checkpoints inside and outside the boundaries of areas under general community quarantine or GCHQ.
“The outbreak region is actually in NCR. The national government decided to expand the boundary to these four provinces to contain the spread of the disease,” he said.
The four provinces under Region 4-A are placed under general community quarantine, joining Metro Manila, from March 22 to April 4, to limit the spread of coronavirus infections.
Under this status, only essential workers from non-GCQ areas are allowed to enter but they would need to present identification to prove that they belong under the list of workers allowed to travel.
“‘Checkpoints are set up in NCR boundaries and strategic areas. Outside the boundaries, we have border control, so we can check who is entering NCR plus. If they are essential workers, they are allowed to enter but if not, they would have to go back,” Usana said.
Meanwhile, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the Philippines was more equipped in confronting the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
“We have been here before but we are not back to square one. We are in much better shape now and more equipped in dealing and handling this virus,” Galvez said in a statement.
“Your government is continuously monitoring the development and the mutations of the disease to ensure that we will be able to protect our health care system and prevent it from being overwhelmed.”
We are listening.