AN OFFICIAL from the Davao City Health Office (CHO) said the current surge of Covid-19 cases experienced in the city can be attributed to the emergence of the new variant.
"I believe naa gyud ta'y variant. Although wala pa ta'y confirmation ani with the PGC [Philippine Genome Center], [kung] ingon ani kapaspas ang pagsaka [sa Covid-19 cases], variant ni (I believe that this is due to the emergence of the new variant. Although there is still no confirmation coming from PGC, but if this is the trend of the increase in cases it must be because of the new variant)," CHO Acting Head Dr. Ashley Lopez said on Wednesday, June 2, 2021 in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.
Lopez said these variants could be B.1.1.7 or the B.1.351. The B.1.1.7 was first reported in the United Kingdom, while the B.1.351 was first reported in South Africa.
The health official said that currently, the city has zero active cases of the new variant.
Since February, Lopez said the city has five officially reported cases of new variants -- three are positive with the UK variant and two for the South African variant.
He said most of these patients, who are returning overseas Filipino workers (ROFWs), have not reached the city, as they were held in Metro Manila.
At present, the city has still zero confirmed specimens for P.3 variant, which was first reported in the Philippines, and B.1.617, which was first reported in India.
Lopez said he is hoping that the suspected variant in the city is not the B.1.617, as reports cited it as one of the more infectious Covid-19 variants.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), B.1.617 has shown evidence of higher transmissibility and reduced neutralization. The variant is thought to be partly responsible for India's devastating second wave of Covid-19 pandemic beginning in February 2021.
Lopez said the city continuously sends specimens of confirmed positive patients to PGC for genomic sequencing.
At present, Lopez cannot give the specific data as to the number of specimens sent for sequencing, but assured that they send every two weeks.
Possible entry of coronavirus variant
Lopez noted that various parts of the country, particularly in Metro Manila, had experienced a surge of cases reportedly due to the emergence of the new variants. This had overwhelmed the critical care facilities.
Despite existing travel restrictions, including the intensified border control and the mandatory submission of a negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) results at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport (also known as Davao International Airport), the official said the possible entry of an individual carrying the new strain of the virus cannot be avoided.
"Daghan man gud ta’g OFW nga nanguli, tong atong mga returning residents. Dili kaayo ta sa tourist, but basically our returning residents ug mga OFW, daghan man gud nanguli og Davao ato, katong panahon nga ga-surge ang NCR ug Cebu, nanguli og Mindanao (Many OFWs, especially returning residents, went home to Mindanao, particularly in Davao during the time when there was a surge of cases in NCR and Cebu. Not so much on the tourist, these are mostly attributed to our returning residents and OFWs)," Lopez said.
He also attributed the land travelers for the possible entry of the new variants.
"Labi na nang by land. Daghang nakalusot (Most especially by land travel, many get past the checkpoint)," he added.
Davao City, on Tuesday evening, June 1, 2021, recorded its highest number of new Covid-19 cases in a single day at 338.
With the newly logged cases, the total Covid-19 in the city reached 17,337, while active cases jumped to 1,912.
DOH-Davao said that among the factors for the record-high number of new cases may be due to the heightened surveillance and intensified testing.
Lopez said based on the data, this is "seven times" higher compared to the surge of cases experienced in mid-October and November 2020.
Starting May, the city has an average of 100 daily new cases.
"Kani karon, grabe ang spike, ang dagan sa kaso dili gani hinay-hinay (Now we have seen a spike of cases. The cases have increased rapidly and not gradually)," he said.
But Lopez said some of the recorded cases are accumulated late cases from the previous days.
On the "positive side," Lopez said the city had already anticipated the possible surge, as the city conducted intensified community swabbing and heightened surveillance.
"Pero ako, dili pud ko nga ma-worry such ani, on the positive side, mas malipay ko nga ato ni nakuha or trace. Imagine magsige ta report nga gamay lang ang kaso, unya naa diay 300 plus nagtuyok-tuyok sa atong komunidad, dinhi dapit sa atong siyudad, mas delikado to (For my part, I am not worried because, on the positive side, I am glad that we were able to get or tace them. Imagine we keep on reporting to have a few number of cases while the 300 plus cases are left undetected and are currently roaming around within communities and the city, that would be risky)," Lopez said.
Lopez, meanwhile, said it is important to trace all Covid-19 suspects in the city to curb the spread of cases.
If the city did not intensify its heightened surveillance swabbing, he said the cases could have reached more than 300.
Despite the surge of cases, Lopez noted a decrease in the fatality rate. The city's case fatality rate is still at 4.4-percent.
"Based on our data, compared to the previous surge, katong first surge nato last November, ang patay ato, walo, pulo, ang average per day, pero karon ubos-ubos ang case fatality rate nato (in November last year, our deaths reached eight to 10 average per day. But now our case fatality rate is slowing down)," he said.
There are instances, however, that deaths would reach five in a single day, but it is not constant.
With this, he said it still could not be determined if the new variants are deadlier than the ancestral variant since studies show that they are only more infectious.