DW photo courtesy
The OCTA Research Group has warned – and the caveat should not just be explained away – that the more infectious COVID-19 Delta variant, first detected in India, could cripple the country’s health care system because of its more infectious nature.
OCTA fellow Ranjit Rye warned that the Delta variant, which he described as a game changer, could lead to a surge of COVID-19 cases in the country, still in various stages of lockdown, adding that Filipinos should not be complacent and must follow minimum public health protocols.
The UP-OCTA team, an independent and interdisciplinary research group composed primarily of UP faculty members and alumni, also includes contributors from the University of Santo Tomas and Providence College, USA.
The group started to monitor the pandemic, officially declared in the Philippines in middle of March last year with Enhanced Community Quarantine, with Rye and his childhood friend, Dr. David Guido of UP’s Institute of Mathematics, deciding, in Rye’s words, “to do research nobody else was doing.”
Rye in a public briefing had stressed that the Delta variant “is a game changer. If it enters the country, it will crumble our healthcare system due to the sudden rise of new cases and since the variant is very infectious as well.”
He added: “That’s why our first message is that we need to take precautions, now is not the time to be complacent and to be neglectful.
“All we know is that some of the vaccines may not be very effective against these new variants…It’s not yet here in the country, it’s not yet spreading, our goal is to prevent that from happening,” he said.
As of June 21, the country has reported a total 17 cases – although no transmission reported at that point – of the Delta variant but all of them were detected at the country’s borders.
Rye urged the public to get vaccinated and at the same time to follow minimum public health protocols to fight against this new and infectious variant.
“All the variants we are fighting them with just one approach, or two actually. First and foremost is to get vaccinated and number two is to follow minimum public health standards,” Rye said.
Compared to the other variants like the Alpha variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, the Delta variant was more contagious because one individual could spread the virus from six to eight other people.
In Rye’s words, “Just to give you a sense of the UK variant, if one professor is infected then the virus can spread from four to five people. While the new Delta variant can spread from six to eight other people, which only shows that it is a bigger number and it’s very contagious.”
What appears to be frightening is that in terms of the vaccine efficacy, OCTA also said some of the vaccines might not be “very effective” against the new variant called Delta plus.
Delta Plus is a mutation of the Delta variant which was tagged as the “new coronavirus variant of concern” by the government of India.
But while others are having reservations in getting themselves vaccinated, the Food and Drug Administration has said vaccination against COVID-19 is the only way to stop the transmission and mutation of the coronavirus.
FDA Director General Eric Domingo, in an interview on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, said the COVID-19 vaccines being used in the country should remain effective against severe infection even if its protection could be reduced against new variants.
A UK study showed that the Delta variant first reported in India diminishes the efficacy of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to 89 percent from 94 percent, and Astrazeneca’s to 59 percent from 70 percent, Domingo said.
“It’s also the only way to stop the variant from coming in because as long as transmission continues, the chances of the virus mutating gets bigger,” Domingo said.
The country aims to vaccinate at least 58 million individuals this year to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.
A total of 8,407,342 jabs have been administered nationwide as of Sunday, the government said.
Meanwhile, the Philippines logged on Thursday 6,043 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), bringing the total to 1,378,260, as one laboratory was not able to submit their data to the COVID-19 Document Repository System on time, the Department of Health reported.
The DOH also reported 108 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 24,036.
The DOH also reported 4,486 recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 1,302,814.
Active cases were logged at 51,410, of which 90.6 percent were mild, 4.5 percent were asymptomatic, 1.4 percent were critical, 2 percent were severe, and 1.44 percent were moderate. (AI/MTVN)