GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 25 Aug) – Extensive contact-tracing activities have been launched in various localities in South Cotabato due to confirmed cases of the dreaded Delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., head of the South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said on Wednesday the province already recorded four cases of the highly contagious strain based on the genome sequencing results released Monday night by the Department of Health (DOH).
He said these were among the 11 new COVID-19 variants detected in the province by the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center, with five infected by Alpha and two by the Beta strains.
Surallah town recorded two Beta and one Delta variant cases; Banga, Koronadal City, and Tupi with one each for Alpha and Delta; and Polomolok with two Alpha.
Aturdido said the patients infected with the Alpha and Beta variants, which are classified as local cases, were already tagged as recovered when their results came out.
Based on the guidelines, he said those with the Delta variant need to have another negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result before they can be declared as cleared.
Of the four confirmed Delta variant cases, the official said one was a four-year-old boy from Tupi town who earlier died in a hospital in Davao City.
He said the patient tested negative in the RT-PCR test before leaving for Davao City to undergo treatment for an undisclosed illness and might have been exposed to the disease at the hospital there.
But he said the three other patients from Surallah, Banga, and Koronadal City had no history of travel and were considered local cases.
“The contact-tracing activities are ongoing for the three Delta variant cases and the health offices are tracking up to the third-generation contacts,” Aturdido said in a press conference.
Dr. Edito Vego, Koronadal City health officer, said they initially identified at least six direct contacts of the area’s first Delta variant case, a 24-year-old male who is working at the Soccsksargen regional center in Barangay Carpenter Hill.
He said the patient, a resident of Barangay Zone 3, only had mild symptoms and was tagged as already recovered on Aug. 14 following a two-week isolation.
But he said they required the latter to undergo further quarantine and will be subjected to another RT-PCR testing.
In Surallah town, the municipal government placed all 200 households in Villanueva Plains Subdivision, Zone 1 of Barangay Libertad under “hard lockdown” or enhanced community quarantine effective Tuesday afternoon due to a confirmed Delta variant case from the area.
Mayor Antonio Bendita said the lockdown will run for seven days or until Aug. 31 to facilitate the implementation of contact-tracing activities and containment measures.
All residents will not be allowed to go out of their homes and the “one entry, one exit” policy will be imposed in the area as set in the mayor’s Executive Order No. 30.
Bendita said the municipal health office has traced at least 30 direct contacts of their Delta variant case, a female resident who is a member of a local biking club. [See separate story.]
Aturdido urged residents to be more vigilant and continually follow the minimum health protocols, noting that the COVID-19 variants are “already in our surroundings.”
He cited the wearing of face mask and face shield, avoiding closed spaces and crowded areas, and observing regular hand hygiene and safe physical distancing.
“Get vaccinated if it is already available. Science tells us that although inoculated people can still get COVID-19, their chances of becoming severe and being hospitalized is low,” he said.
As of Sunday night, South Cotabato province has a total of 978 active COVID-19 cases, the second-highest in Region 12 (Soccsksargen).
The confirmed cases in the area since last year already reached a total of 10,696, the highest in the region, with 325 related deaths and 9,393 recoveries.
The IPHO confirmed on Aug. 11 the province’s first local case for the Beta variant involving a 29-year-old female from Tantangan town who had a history of travel to Davao City.
It earlier reported in April two cases of the Alpha or the United Kingdom, and one each for Gamma or Brazilian, and P.3 or the variant first detected in the country, all involving returning overseas Filipino workers. (MindaNews)