COVID-19 virus variant first found in PH removed from WHO's list of 'variants of interest' — PGC exec

Published July 13, 2021, 2:29 PM

by Analou de Vera

Illustration of coronavirus / File Photo

The Theta (P.3) variant of the virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is no longer part of the list of “variants of interest” of the World Health Organization (WHO), an official of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) said.

PGC Director Dr. Eva Cutiongco-Dela Paz said that the Theta variant, which was first detected in the Philippines, was reclassified by the WHO under the “alerts for further monitoring” category.

“Theta or P.3, the variant of interest first identified in the Philippines and we reported in March has been taken out of the list and now reclassified under ‘alerts for further monitoring,’’’ said Dela Paz in an online forum hosted by the Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday, July 13.

Dela Paz said Theta’s classification was downgraded last July 6.

“A previously designated variant of interest or concern, which have conclusively demonstrated to no longer pose a major added risk to global public health compared to other circulating SARS-CoV-2 virus can be reclassified,” she noted.

Last March 19, WHO Country Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that they have not seen yet that Theta variant is associated with increased transmissibility and increased severity in disease in people who have been carrying this variant.

Related story: Medical experts still studying new COVID-19 variant first found in PH

Delta variant

The Philippines, meanwhile, has yet to detect any local case of the Delta variant. This variant was first found in India and is reported to have been driving the surge of COVID-19 infections in the said South Asian country.

Dela Paz said that the Delta variant cases in the Philippines remain at 19.

“These 19 cases are all from incoming international travelers. There are no local cases reported so far,” she said.

The Department of Health (DOH) once again emphasized the importance of strict border control.

“Napakahalaga ng pagpapalakas natin sa border control… Potentially, papasok talaga itong mga Delta at ibang variants of concern pero bago iyan pumasok, gusto natin sapat at malakas na ang ating sistema (It is very important that we strengthen our border control … Potentially, the Delta and other variants of concern might enter (our communities) but before that, we want our (healthcare) system to be strong enough),” said DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Dr. Alethea De Guzman.