By Genalyn Kabiling and Dhel Nazario
The government is committed to sustain the strict enforcement of minimum health standards to contain the coronavirus outbreak after local researchers detected a mutated strain of the coronavirus in the country, a Palace official said Monday.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the public is also encouraged to properly follow these health precautions while authorities continue to monitor the mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that causes the coronavirus disease.
So far, Nograles said there is no definitive study showing the G614 mutated strain was more transmissible than the original D614 strain of the virus.
“Regardless of what strain is causing community transmission, the preventive measures to protect oneself against contracting COVID-19 are the same. Through strict adherence and observance of minimum public health standards, we will be able to stop the disease from spreading,” Nograles said.
“Moreover, we emphasize that to maximize the efficacy of these measures, the public – all of us – must practice them properly,” said Nograles, co-chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF).
The Philippine Genome Center recently reported that it has detected the G614 strain in random samples collected in Quezon City.
“We don’t have to be alarmed. It does not change the health standards that we are presently implementing,” said Dr. Jaime Montoya, Executive Director of the DOST – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) in a text message to Manila Bulletin.
Dr. Montoya noted that it is “just a matter of time” for the new strain to be present in the country “especially with the facility of travel” and since it’s already present in other countries such as Europe.
As an infectious disease expert, he added that “it is not surprising” and that they will be verifying the information with the PGC.
Quezon City, which is under community quarantine, has recorded more than 8,000 cases of coronavirus so far. Nograles is the Cabinet member assigned to provide support for the city government’s pandemic response.
“In the month of June, both the D614 as well as the G614 have been detected in a small sample of positive cases. Although this information confirms the presence of G614 in the Philippines, we note that all the samples tested were from Quezon City and may not represent the mutational landscape for the whole country,” the center said in a bulletin last August 13.
Dr. Montoya agreed that the virus does mutate, but at random. With this, PCG noted the importance of tracking and studying the mutations of the virus as it spreads around the world.
“Epidemiologists likewise study the random mutations occurring in circulating viruses to inform containment measures,” PGC said.
Nograles echoed the PGC pronouncement that there is “still no definitive evidence showing that carriers of the G614 variant are actually more transmissible than those with D614.”
“The mutation does not appear to substantially affect clinical outcomes as well,” he said.
He said there would be continuous monitoring of the mutation “to better understand the evolutionary trajectory of SARS-CoV-2 to inform containment, diagnostic, and therapeutic strategies.”
As of August 16, the country has recorded 161,253 cases of infections with 2,665 deaths.
The government has imposed quarantine measures, including restrictions on public transportation and mass gatherings, to limit the spread of the coronavirus while stepping up efforts to test, trace and treat those infected with the illness.