NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Health authorities are doubly alarmed on how to monitor the entry of the virulent Delta variant of COVID-19 while deaths rose to 160 as of last Friday
Until yesterday, the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force did not declare any of the COVID-19 fatalities as having been infected with the fast spreader variant which has recorded several casualties in Indonesia and Thailand.
Dr. Yul Lopez, BIATF spokesman told the Chronicle yesterday that symptoms presentation – we can not really tell off hand because it’s quite similar to the usual strain.
He said doctors will start to suspect of this fast spreader Delta variant if there is a sudden “spike and clustering” of positive COVID cases in a particular community and upon contact tracing we can identify an index case who usually is returning from abroad. At this stage, the Department of Health will conduct “genome sequencing” to identify the Delta strain.
“Frankly, lisud gyud.”Dr Lopez admitted.
However, he clarified that of the samples sent to Manila periodically, only the UK and South African strains have been identified.
Dr. Mutya Macuno, chief of the Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital told the Chronicle yesterday that the Department of Health (DOH) sent a standard guide for them to detect if a swab sample needs to be sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila once a questionable sample or pattern can be tested.
In the meantime, there is no immediate way to detect if one is infected with the dreaded Delta variant.
The province-wide alarm on the possible entry of the variant was sounded off by Gov. Art Yap himself who projected that the Delta variant of COVID-19 will eventually make its way into the province.
“It is a matter of time before the Delta variant reaches Bohol,” Yap said.
Mayors were asked to prioritize the vaccination of senior citizens and overseas Filipino workers in the vaccination drive.
“We must double the numbers in two weeks’ time. We have to increase our vaccinations quickly to protect against the Delta variant,” Yap said.
Bohol however is solely dependent on the vaccines being allocated by the national government.
64 DELTA CASES
The alarm on the Delta variant followed after DOH reported yesterday to have detected 17 new COVID-19 Delta variant cases, 12 of which were tagged as “local” cases.
This brings the total number of Delta variant cases in the country to 64.
“Of the additional 17 Delta variant cases, 12 are local cases, one returning overseas Filipino (ROF), while four cases are currently being verified if these are local or ROF cases,” the DOH said in a statement.
Nine of the 12 new local cases are in Metro Manila while three are in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) region.
Dr .Fruserma “Emem “Uy of the Bohol IATF said variants can be tested if we send samples of suspicious cases for “genome sequencing”.
“If by chance there is a case but his/her sample is not sent for sequencing, then we would not know, until such time when transmission becomes widespread,” Dr. Uy said.
Dr. Jefferson Ong, former president of the Bohol Medical Society (BMS) said the only way to know regarding variants is to send swab specimens to the Philippine Genome Center in Manila to have the viral genetic sequence determined. He said it is an expensive procedure thus samples are not sent if we do not have a good reason to suspect a variant.
For his part, Dr. Kazan Baluyot, immediate past president of the Philippine College of Physicians (Bohol Chapter) said the best indication for the Delta variant to have entered the province is when there is a remarkable spike and young people (mostly unvaccinated) are hit with severe Covid-19 cases.
During a separate radio interview, Dr. Bong Lechago, medical director of the Holy Name University Medical Center repeatedly said “clustering of cases” is needed in doing genomic sequencing.
IN CRITICAL LEVEL
Based on the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force’s real-time data of hospital admissions in the province, only seven of the 68 COVID-19 ward and isolation beds at the Governor CelestinoGallares Memorial Hospital (GCGMH) were available as of Friday morning.
Eight of the 14 ICU beds of the hospital were also occupied.
The GCGMH is the main COVID-19 referral hospital in the province and only tertiary-level health facility.
Meanwhile, 53 of the combined 81 COVID-19 beds at the four private hospitals in Tagbilaran City, namely Ace Medical Center Bohol, Ramiro Community Hospital, Tagbilaran Community Hospital, and HNU-MC, were occupied.
The four private facilities are also Bohol’s only Level II hospitals
ROSE TO 160
The number of COVID-19-related fatalities in the province surged to 160 on Friday after the Provincial Health Office (PHO) reported an additional 38 deaths that transpired in a span of over a week.
The PHO’s previous data released on Thursday showed that 122 people have died due to complications caused by the diseases.
In a statement, the PHO, however, clarified that the newly recorded deaths did not transpire in a single day.
“The additional deaths in the report are not due to an overnight spike in deaths but due to more accurate data collection and data validating efforts. Not all deaths occurred today but occurred more than a week ago,” it stated.
Based on the same data, 71 individuals died due to COVID-19 in a span of one month from June 23 to July 23.
Most of the deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic early last year were in Tagbilaran City which had a total of 29 fatalities. The province’s lone city was followed by Guindulman, 9; Tubigon, 8; Ubay, 8; and Candijay, 7.
While the death toll surged, the number of active cases plummeted to 849 on Friday from 1,249 on Thursday.
The Friday report also indicated that there were no new cases detected during the day.
According to the PHO, they started to use Friday data found in the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force-Emergency Operations Center’s dashboard.
The figures reflected in the dashboard are based on data directly reported by local government units and their rural health units.