18 more positive for UK variant of COVID-19 in PH
MANILA, Philippines z– Eighteen more cases of the highly contagious UK variant of the coronavirus have been detected in the Philippines, bringing the total to 62.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday said 13 of the latest UK variant cases were Filipinos who returned from other countries between Jan. 3 and 27 and tested positive for COVID-19, but have now recovered.
Three of the latest UK variant cases were from the Cordillera Administrative Region: two are 12-year-old boys connected to the original cluster from Bontoc, Mountain Province, while the third is a 41-year-old woman connected to the first La Trinidad, Benguet, cluster.
All three cases have recovered while all their close contacts have completed quarantine, the DOH said.
No information was released about the other two UK variant cases.
The 18 new cases of the B.1.1.7 variant were detected among a batch of 757 COVID-positive samples sequenced by the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (PGC) on Feb. 18.
The DOH did not say whether the additional cases confirm the community transmission of the B.1.1.7 variant that became a global concern since it was first reported in the United Kingdom late last year for being more transmissible though not more deadly than the original COVID-19 agent.
The DOH also said three more COVID-19 cases with “potentially clinically significant” mutations were detected in Central Visayas from the latest batch that had been sequenced.
The latest discoveries brought to 34 the number of COVID-19 cases found to have both the N501Y mutation that is in the UK variant and the E484K mutation that is in the South African variant.
Data not enough
Dr. Cynthia Saloma, the PGC executive director, last week said the available data was not yet enough to conclude whether these mutations had significant public health implications.
The DOH said the PGC and the UP-National Institute for Health would submit the new findings to the World Health Organization and the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data.
The findings will “aid in the ongoing global effort to track and study new and emerging genomic changes in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which vaccine manufacturers may use to recalibrate vaccines and ensure efficacy against COVID-19,” the DOH said.
The DOH also asked local governments where there were cases of the UK variant and mutations of concern to immediately report sharp rises in cases.
“As long as COVID-19 transmission persists, our strengthened biosurveillance will continue to detect mutations,” the DOH said, emphasizing the need to strictly practice public health standards to lower infection rates and reduce the risk of mutations.
“The goal is to bring down transmission rates to levels where biosurveillance can no longer detect mutations of interest,” it added.
On Sunday, the DOH reported 1,888 additional coronavirus infections, bringing the total confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 561,169.
The DOH said 20 more patients had died, including 12 who were previously marked as recovered, raising the death toll to 12,088.
It declared 9,737 mildly ill or asymptomatic cases as recovered after completing a 14-day quarantine, pushing total number of COVID-19 survivors to 522,843.
The deaths and recoveries left the country with 26,238 active cases, of which 87.3 percent were mild, 6.1 percent asymptomatic, 0.91 percent moderate, 2.8 percent severe, and 3 percent critical.
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