Expert warns UK COVID-19 variant may hike PH caseload by 15-fold
MANILA, Philippines — If the more contagious COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom will become the dominant variant in the Philippines, it would increase the country’s total coronavirus caseload by 15-fold, an expert warned Wednesday.
“With our current r [reproduction rate] of 1.1, 20,000 cases at the beginning of the month will be about 32,000 at the end of the month. But if the variant takes over, the 20,000 cases can become almost 300,000 cases by the end of the month,” Dr. John Wong of health research institution Epimetrics Inc. said in an online press briefing.
Wong, who is also a member of the newly-created panel tasked to monitor new COVID-19 variants, also noted that even as no evidence yet suggests that the UK variant is more deadly, having more cases will also translate to a higher number of deaths.
The UK variant, also known as BC117 and is believed to be up to 70% more contagious than the original variant, has yet to be detected in the Philippines based on the result of a genome sequencing study by the Philippine Genome Center.
But Hong Kong recently detected the presence of the new COVID-19 variant in a passenger who returned from the Philippines on December 22.
Other members of the panel on new COVID-19 variants then warned the public against complacency, saying that people need to continue to follow the minimum health standards even as the dreaded strain has not reached the country yet.
“Kailangan po patuloy na maging vigilant at gamiting ang ating talino at kakayahan upang huwag na pong tumaas ang kaso ng COVID sa bansa,” said Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-dela Paz of the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Anna Ong-Lim of the Department of Health-Technical Advisory Group (DOH-TAG), meanwhile, encouraged devotees to look for alternatives in taking part in the annual Feast of the Black Nazarene without physically going in the event that usually gathers thousands of devotees to Quiapo Church in Manila.
“Ngayong meron tayong COVID baka puwedeng isipin ng ating mga deboto kung papaano nila isasabuhay ang kanilang pananampalataya without having to go to the venue itself,” she said.
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