OCTA Research: COVID variant may already be here

The new and more infectious COVID-19  variant may have already entered the country due to its late detection, as well as lenient border control in the Philippines, a member of the OCTA Research Team said Monday.


"Statistically speaking, it is possible na nandito na ang (new)variant. Nakapasok na ito sa Japan, sa Singapore, sa Hong Kong, so since hindi naman ganoon ka-strict ang borders natin, it is very possible na nakapasok na rin ito dito," OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said.

(Statistically speaking, it is possible that the new variant is already here. It has entered Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and since our borders are not that strict, it is very possible that it has also entered the Philippines)

However, David emphasized that it is not yet sure whether or not the new variant is already here until experts released the results of the genome sequencing.

The Department of Health (DoH) also announced Monday that the results of the testing may be released this week as the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) has already received samples from passengers who arrived in the Philippines from countries with reported cases of the new COVID-19 variant.

According to David, only limited studies were published about the new variant but it was found out that that it is more infectious than the current one.

"Based on science and based on the data, so far, nakikita natin na mas infectious ito pero hindi naman mas fatal (Based on science and based on the data, so far, we see that it is more infectious but not more fatal)," he explained.

The new COVID-19 variant was first detected in the United Kingdom and has started to spread in other countries. With this, the Philippine government began to ban travelers coming from countries where the new variant was reported.

While the results are yet to be out, David said the new variant will cause a further increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines in addition to the resumption of testing following the holiday season.

David, who is also a professor from the University of the Philippines, said testing was reduced to 50 percent in the past weeks as most testing centers were closed for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

"We are foreseeing it will increase this week. As we resume more testing, we will detect more cases and magkakaroon ng (there will be an) increase in the number of new cases and we will see what the trend is," he added.

The OCTA Research group member said the average daily new cases will likely return to 2,000 within the week or early next week once testing centers resumed operations.

David said that the country's healthcare system can still accommodate the current COVID-19 situation, but warned that the increasing trend should be mitigated immediately if it continues until late January.

With this, David reminded the public to continue strict compliance on minimum health protocols such as the proper wearing of face masks and face shields and observing physical distancing to reduce the transmission of the virus.