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Keep up guard as Delta is coming, priest warns Philippines

Church scientist tells health officials that relaxing Covid rules now could let in the highly contagious variant

Keep up guard as Delta is coming, priest warns Philippines

Health workers give residents Covid-19 vaccine shots in Mandaluyong City, Manila, on July 15. (Photo: AFP)

A Catholic priest in the Philippines has warned health officials not to relax quarantine restrictions or risk a new Covid-19 wave brought about by the fast-spreading Delta variant.

The variant, first identified in India, spreads much faster than other coronavirus strains.

Several cases have been recorded among returning Filipinos, but it has yet to gain a foothold in the country.

Dominican Father Nicanor Austriaco, who is also a scientist, said there is no reason not to be vigilant despite a lower number of infections recorded in the Philippines in recent days.

“This is not yet the time to relax restrictions, especially in Manila, despite the millions of vaccines administered each day,” Father Austriaco told ABS-CBN in an interview on July 14.

He said a “plateau” in Covid infections did not mean the virus was being controlled by vaccines.

We can see from the reports of Indonesian health authorities that there is an increase in the mortality rate because of the Delta variant because it also spreads faster

An average of 634 new Covid-19 cases was being recorded in Manila each day from July 6-12, slightly down on the daily average of 646 infections in June.

“All measures and quarantine restrictions must be kept in place … We do not want to take the risk of increasing mobility and entry of the Delta variant,” Father Austriaco said.

The Delta Covid variant has been reported in 96 countries and is particularly dominant in Indonesia, killing thousands.

Philippine authorities banned travelers coming from Indonesia on July 14 to prevent the spread of the highly contagious variant.

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Anyone who has recently been to Indonesia will be quarantined for 14 days, Philippine health authorities said on July 15.

“We can see from the reports of Indonesian health authorities that there is an increase in the mortality rate because of the Delta variant because it also spreads faster. So, with a population of more than 100 million like the Philippines with less than 5 percent of the people fully vaccinated, it is really dangerous,” Father Austriaco said.

The molecular biologist said increased social mixing and mobility are factors in spreading any virus.

“That is why Philippine health authorities should factor in not relaxing health protocols and social measures,” he said.

“Despite having full vaccinations, still avoid crowded places, keep your distance from others, make sure that if you are indoors you are in a room that has good ventilation,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s vaccine czar said the government was ramping up efforts to ward off the Delta variant.

“Yes, we are aware of the high transmission rate of the new strain … that is why we have sped up our vaccination rate while maintaining strict health protocols,” Carlito Galvez told reporters on July 14.

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