THE government has stepped up preparations for a possible surge in Covid-19 cases driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.

The heightened readiness was announced even as the Department of Health confirmed a third death from the Delta variant.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the latest fatality was a 78-year-old woman from Baybay town in Antique who died on May 30.

Vergeire said the woman was previously reported to have recovered but the local government unit validated her death.

The two other fatalities were a 63-year-old seaman who died on May 19 and a 58-year-old woman from Pandacan, Manila who died on June 28.

Vergeire said all local Delta cases that have recovered were re-tested and quarantined to further verify their status.

She clarified that the reported Delta case in Taguig City was a returning overseas Filipino who listed Taguig as his address.

The country has so far reported 35 cases of the Delta variant, which Vergeire said was as much as 90-percent more infectious than the Alpha variant, or what used to be referred to as the UK variant.

Vergeire said it was possible there could be more undetected Delta cases, the reason why the Philippine Genome Center has stepped up its sampling in areas with a high number of Covid cases.

The center expects to double its sequencing capacity once it acquires a sequencing machine that can process as many as 750 samples.

Vergeire said the government is discussing with the country's infectious diseases experts to determine if current restrictions need to be tightened.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. did not confirm if restrictions will be intensified but said the government will continue to enforce localized lockdowns to allow more people to continue their jobs despite the detection of the Delta variant.

Roque also dismissed claims by former National Task Force Against Covid-19 adviser Dr. Anthony Leachon that the government was underreporting Delta case figures.

"We are aiming to promote total health. Alam po natin na there is a necessity na limitahan ang pagkalat ng Covid-19 pero at the same time, ayaw din natin tumaas ang hanay ng mga nagugutom dahil sa lockdown (We want to promote total health. We know there is a necessity to contain the spread of Covid-19 but at the same time, we don't want more people getting hungry because of a renewed community lockdown)," he said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said the PNP is looking at a worst-case scenario in preparing for a new surge in Covid cases.

Eleazar ordered the PNP's Administrative Support for Covid-19 Task Force to have police medical and quarantine facilities ready to treat Covid patients.

He also directed the PNP's Joint Task Force Covid Shield to boost coordination with local government units in enforcing health protocols.

He said the cooperation of the public is still the key in preventing the further spread of the Delta variant.

"That is why we in the PNP are again asking our fellow countrymen to take the minimum public health safety protocols seriously for our safety," he said.

On Monday, the country reported 5,651 new Covid cases for a total of 1.513 million infections.

Also on Monday, Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso said one of the close contacts of the two Delta cases in the city tested positive for the virus.

Domagoso said the infected contact's cycle threshold was above 20, ruling out the need to submit his test samples for sequencing.

He said the city's health department tracked down three dozen individuals who had close contacts with the city's two Delta cases.

With Dempsey Reyes and Zsastee Villanueva