V-P Robredo seeks improvement in Covid-19 testing as Philippines detects first Lambda variant case

The Philippines has the second-highest Covid-19 infection tally in South-east Asia.
The Philippines has the second-highest Covid-19 infection tally in South-east Asia.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Philippines' Vice-President Leni Robredo on Sunday (Aug 15) called for an improvement in the country's testing and contact tracing efforts amid soaring Covid-19 cases.

"We always push to add more tests because if we don't, cases will continue to increase. There may be a lot of infected who are not tested," she said during a television interview.

"Sometimes, even though tests are available, contact tracing is lacking. So, there is a gap in the line-up of testing because contact tracing is not enough."

The vice-president's lament comes a day after the Philippines reported 14,749 Covid-19 cases on Sunday, its second-highest daily increase. It is the country's highest tally of daily infections since April 2, when daily cases reached a record of 15,298. 

Mrs Robredo noted that there should be accessibility and greater affordability in Covid-19 testing and better contact tracing to address the spike in cases.

She also expressed alarm over the 24.9 per cent positivity rate that the country recently recorded.

"What does the 25 per cent mean? For every four individuals tested, one of them is positive. That's a significant number," she said, adding that the positivity rate should be less than 5 per cent, citing an international standard.

The Delta variant has been detected in all cities in the Manila region, and 70 per cent of all intensive care unit beds in the country were already occupied, the Department of Health said.

The Philippines has the second-highest infection tally in South-east Asia, at about 1.73 million. Only Indonesia, with more than 3.83 million cases, has more in the region.

Cases continued to surge despite the lockdown imposed in the capital region and other parts of the country.

Octa Research, an independent pandemic monitor, said the growing number of Covid-19 infections could mean that the strict lockdown is not working, or that the Delta variant is more aggressive than expected.

Separately, the Philippines’ health ministry said on Sunday it has detected the first case of the Lambda variant in the country, and reminded the public to strictly observe minimum public health standards.

The World Health Organisation classifies Lambda, which was first identified in Peru in December, as a "variant of interest" as laboratory studies showed it has mutations that resist vaccine-induced antibodies.

The Department of Health also reported an additional 270 deaths, the third highest one-day spike in fatalities, increasing the death toll to 30,340.