The Philippines on Friday reported its first local cases of the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus, the one that is driving a surge in infections around Southeast Asia.
Eleven of the 16 new detected Delta variant cases are classified as local cases, the Department of Health said. The five others are returning overseas Filipinos.
Two of the 11 local cases are in the Metro Manila region. One died on June 28 after being rushed to the hospital while the other was tagged as recovered.
Six other local cases were detected in Northern Mindanao -- all of whom were tagged as recovered. Another patient was initially tested in Metro Manila but is from Central Luzon.
"All these cases have no known connection to each other," the DOH said.
Of those from abroad, three were tagged as recovered while the DOH said it was still verifying the status of the two other cases.
With the confirmation of local cases of the Delta variant, the DOH said it would ensure that the country's healthcare system is prepared for a possible surge. The country's prevention-detection-isolation-treatment-reintegration strategy is also being intensified, it added.
"The DOH is in close coordination with the Centers for Health Development and Local Government Units to ensure that all cases have been or are appropriately traced and managed," the DOH said.
The Bureau of Quarantine and Department of Transportation remain on "high alert to implement strict border control measures."
"Even while we are vaccinating the Filipino people, minimum public health measures such as physical distancing and masking should not be neglected," the DOH reminded.
The World Health Organization has warned of the spread of more "dangerous" variants such as Delta--which has been causing spikes in COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia. So far, Delta is the most contagious of the identified variants of COVID-19.
Earlier this week, the Philippines has expanded its travel ban to include Indonesia--the new epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Asia--in what some health experts say was a late effort to dodge the spread of the Delta variant.