EASTERN Visayas has detected four cases of B.1.1.7 lineage or variant Alpha, previously termed the UK variant of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), amid the "frightening" surge of cases in the region.
“Please bear in mind that there’s a big probability that variants of concern are here because we are seeing the easy transmissibility of the virus,” said Dr. Marc Steven Capungcol, head of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Units-Health Emergency Management Staff (Resu-Hems).
The surveillance unit received the report of their samples for sequencing from the Philippine Genome Center last May 31, 2021.
According to the regional health department, Eastern Visayas is no longer free from the Covid-19 variant of concern.
Of the four individuals who tested positive for the UK variant, two are locally stranded individuals (LSIs) from Catubig, Northern Samar.
Both have undergone and completed the 14-day quarantine period mandatory for LSIs, as they both originated from National Capital Region and are now tagged as recovered by the Regional Epidemiology Bureau, the agency said.
The regional health department is also currently investigating the other two cases from Calbayog City, Samar for a possible case of local transmission.
“With the limitation of genome sequencing, it’s difficult for us to bombard the Philippine Genome Center for our samples to be tested and sequenced for us to know if there are variants of concern in a particular local government unit or in a particular place. So my message and plea to everyone, let us act as if we have the variant of concern here,” Capungcol added.
With the sudden increase of Covid-19 cases in Eastern Visayas, health officials warned the public that Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC), the major Covid-19 referral hospital in the region, has already reached its full-bed capacity.
“EVRMC is now overwhelmed with this staggering spike of cases and can no longer accommodate Covid-19 patients,” the agency said.
As of June 1 alone, the agency said there are 40 pending referrals in the said hospital or an equivalent to 40 individuals who currently need medical attention but cannot be given aid yet due to limited resources.
“We are facing a frightening situation. We have to work together,” said Dr. Exuperia Sabalberino, regional health director.
“For local government units, we remind again, that for the new arrivals to please do quarantine or if you have symptoms, please do swabbing right away and proceed with contact tracing. After getting swabbed, please do not be moving around your area,” she appealed.
“Go home to your respective areas and do self-isolation or self-quarantine. For the public, if you have symptoms, even the ones you consider to be ordinary cough and colds, we should have a high index for suspicion for Covid-19 because we currently have a spike of cases,” she added.
The regional health department admitted that the sudden surge of Covid-19 cases in the region “is still attributed to the increased mobility of the people due to reduced travel restrictions, and the complacency of the public to the minimum health and safety protocols when in public areas.”
“Please avoid super-spreader events. We observe in social media posts, that there are a lot of people almost everywhere, especially during weekends. This is not the time to go out,” Sabalberino said, as she urged the public to protect their families from the infections.
“Many are asymptomatic carriers in the region. Our positivity rate is high. Meaning, some are carriers of the virus just roaming around the area. We should avoid interacting with these people,” the health official said in a statement.
On June 2, Eastern Visayas logged 258 new cases of Covid-19.
It was followed by record-breaking 276 new cases on Thursday, June 3.
The region’s total number of Covid-19 cases is now at 21,452, with total recoveries at 19,733 (91.99 percent), total deaths at 324 (1.51 percent), and total active cases at 1,395 (6.50 percent). (SunStar Philippines)