The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday, May 11, announced the presence of the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in the country.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the variant was detected in two returning overseas Filipinos through the conduct of genome sequencing.
“Nais po namin ipaalam sa publiko na tayo po ay may natukoy na dalawang kaso ng nasabing variant (We would like to inform the public that we have identified two cases of the said variant),” said Vergeire in a press briefing.
The first patient was a 37-year-old man who came from Oman, while the second one was a 58-year-old man from the United Arab Emirates. The two of them have already recovered from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Yung ating dalawang kaso have already been tagged as recovered and as mentioned they are currently asymptomatic (Our two cases have already been tagged as recovered and as mentioned they are currently asymptomatic),” said Dr. Alethea De Guzman, director of the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau Vergeire said that two cases had no travel history from India. “No history of travel to India or did not come from India nor did not pass through India,” she said.
To note, the B.1.617 variant was first detected in India in October 2020. According to De Guzman, this variant has at least “15 different mutations,” including the L452R and E484Q. She said that the L452R mutation is associated “with increased transmissibility.” The E484Q mutation, meanwhile, “may help the virus escape immune response.”
De Guzman, however, said that “further studies are necessary to understand the transmissibility, infectivity, and effect on vaccine efficacy of the B.1.617 variant.” Vergeire assured that the government will continue to strengthen its border control measures.
“Ang lahat ng papasok sa ating bansa via any port of entry at ano man ang kanilang vaccination status ay sasailalim sa mandatory 14-day quarantine sa kanilang pagdating. Ang unang sampung araw ng quarantine ay gagawin sa quarantine facilities habang ang natitirang apat na araw ay dapat siguraduhin makumpleto under their respective local government units (Every individual who enters the country via any port of entry and regardless of their vaccination status will be subjected to mandatory 14-day quarantine upon their arrival. The first ten days of quarantine will be done at quarantine facilities while the remaining four days must be completed under their respective local government units),” said Vergeire.
“Gagawin po ang RT-PCR test sa ika-7 araw mula sa kanilang pagdating. Ano man ang maging resulta ng RT-PCR, kailangan kumpletuhin ang 10 araw na quarantine sa loob ng quarantine facilities (The RT-PCR test will be done on the 7th day from their arrival. Whatever the outcome of the RT-PCR, the 10-day quarantine must be completed in a quarantine facility),” she added.
Philippine Genome Center (PGC) Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma, meanwhile, said that this shows that the variants of concern are now present in many countries.
“We were able to detect these cases, apparently, not even travelers from India, but travelers from other countries—that tells you also that the spread has been going on in countries where some of our returning overseas Filipinos have come from,” said Saloma.
“It is really important for everyone to get the opportunity—if the opportunity arises that we get vaccinated: grab it. At the same time, we should not forget to exercise the minimum health standards,” she reminded the public.