Good day. Here are the stories to The Manila Times for Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

READ: Govt beefs up Delta response

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.

READ: Hospitals lack nurses - group

A GROUP of private hospitals in the country said they have enough beds to cope with a surge in Covid-19 cases triggered by the Delta variant but they are short of staff to handle the cases. Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (Phapi) President Dr. Jose Rene de Grano said if most of the Delta variant cases turn out to be either moderate or severe, it will put a strain on all private hospitals in the country because of the shortage of nurses. De Grano told a press briefing on Monday many nurses resigned after the last Covid surge in April, further reducing bed capacity and even forcing some private hospitals to downsize. He added the hospitals' supply of oxygen and ventilators remains stable for now.

READ: 3M doses of US-donated vaccine arrive

THE United States has donated over 3 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the Philippines as part of its worldwide effort to help end the coronavirus pandemic. US Embassy in Manila acting Press Attaché Jonathan Rose said in a statement on Monday that on July 16 and 17, the United States delivered 3,240,850 doses of the single-dose vaccine to the Philippines. Rose said that to date, the US' Covid-19 assistance to the Philippines has totaled over P1.38 billion or about $27.5 million.

READ: PNP to secure southern backdoor vs Delta

GEN. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), has ordered police forces in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (Basulta) to step up intelligence monitoring and patrols to prevent the illegal entry of people from neighboring countries amid the threat of the Delta variant of Covid-19. Eleazar visited the three provinces to check on the morale and welfare of the officers as well as to be briefed on measures to protect local residents from the Delta variant. In a statement on Monday, he said the biggest problem is monitoring sea travel between the three provinces and Indonesia.

READ: Blended learning to continue – DepEd

THE Department of Education (DepEd) has clarified blended distance learning will still be used for School Year 2021-2022, after President Rodrigo Duterte gave his approval for the opening of classes on September 13. School Year 2021-2022 will end on June 24, 2022. Briones said by implementing blended learning, students and teachers will not be exposed to the risk of contracting Covid-19. In preparation for the school opening, Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said experiences from the past school year will help shape the delivery of education for 2021-2022.

READ: PCG drives out China warship from Recto Bank


A Philippine Coast Guard patrol ship on a training mission managed to shoo away a Chinese warship that strayed into the vicinity of Recto Bank within the nation's exclusive economic zone, authorities revealed on Monday. The crew of the BRP Cabra – a Parola-class patrol vessel built in Japan – spotted the warship flying the flag of mainland China intruding within the waters off Marie Louise Bank which is part of Recto Bank (also known as Reed Bank) last July 13. According to PCG commandant Admiral George Ursabia, the crew of BRP Cabra attempted to contact the warship through radio. Getting no response, the Philippine ship moved closer and used its long range acoustic device (LRAD) to order them to move out.

BUSINESS: Delta variant woes clobber PH shares

Over to business, the concerns prompted by the Delta variant continued to plague the Philippine shares, dragging the market down to the 6,500 level on Monday. The bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) plunged by 1.59 percent or 106.63 points to 6,587.20, while the broader All Shares slumped by 1.29 percent or 53.39 points to end at 4,084.55. Philstocks Financial Inc. senior research analyst Japhet Tantiangco said the worries on the Delta variant weighed on the sentiment, as the country recorded cases of local transmission of the strain. Tantiangco said the variant raises fears of possible resurgence in local coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases and lead to the reimposition of stricter quarantine restrictions, which could further hamper the economy's recovery.

SPORTS: PH can finally win elusive gold in Tokyo - Ramirez

Filipino athletes making the Olympics is already elite in itself. That's why even if the Philippine 19-athlete delegation went home empty-handed from the Tokyo Olympics slated from July 23 to August 8, being able to compete with the best of the best is already a gold in its own right, according to Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Butch Ramirez. However, with the bulk of money spent for the athletes and all the support that PSC has given them, Ramirez is optimistic that a medal, a gold at that, can be achieved by a Pinoy athlete for the first time in 97 years.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Antonio Contreras and Yen Makabenta are today's front page columnists. Contreras discusses what the surveys are reading wrong while Makabenta gives reasons why presidential candidates must be measured against the real demands and role of the presidency.

Today's editorial talks about the misinformation epidemic being as lethal as the Covid-19 pandemic itself. Read a full version on the paper's opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

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On behalf of The Manila Times, this is Aric John Sy Cua reporting. Have a safe week ahead.