The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday, April 27, said the B.1.617 variant or the variant first detected in India is classified as a variant under investigation (VUI) and not a variant of concern (VOC).
The Health department said this was based on the technical definitions set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The DOH said it issued the clarification in response to a misleading headline falsely conveying that a travel ban has not been imposed because the Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III does not consider the variant as a matter of utmost importance.
“The two statements—’There is no travel ban yet,’ and ‘The B.1.1617 is not a variant of concern’ were made in response to two different questions,” the DOH said in a statement.
“The Secretary has clarified in the interview that while existing travel restrictions for foreigners have been in place since the beginning of the Enhanced Community Quarantine for NCR+ Bubble, the travel restrictions for Returning Overseas Filipinos and Overseas Filipino Workers are yet to be discussed in the Inter Agency Tssk Force,” it added.
When asked about the characteristics of the variant, the DOH said, the Secretary also accurately stated that the B.1.617 has not satisfied the WHO criteria for it to be classified as a “variant of concern.”
Despite this, the DOH said, it will continue to monitor the variant, along with all other variants, to ensure immediate and appropriate response.