WHO: Little evidence PH variant spreading quickly
The P.3 or “Philippine” variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, does not seem to be quickly transmissible as originally thought, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Monday.
“We are looking at this carefully and trying to compare it with the epidemiological information,” Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO country representative, said amid concerns that the surge in COVID-19 cases was being fueled by virus variants, including the P.3 cases found in central Philippines.
“The evidence we are seeing … indicate that this probably does not have that increased transmissibility that was originally thought to be associated with it,” Abeyasinghe said at the Laging Handa public briefing. He noted the “stabilization of transmission” of the Philippine variant in Central Visayas and Cebu.
The P.3 variant has also been isolated in Japan, he said.
The Department of Health (DOH) said it would defer to the WHO to confirm whether there is community transmission of the highly contagious variants of the SARS-CoV-2 in Metro Manila and other regions where many of the cases had been detected.
“The WHO has not given a recommendation on the level of transmission of the variants,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters on Monday in an online briefing.
Although the agency would rely on DOH data, Vergeire said the WHO would be the one to classify the extent of transmission of the variants, citing global implications as well.
“We only get bits and pieces (of samples) across the regions. But that is not conclusive to say that the variants have taken over and this is the dominant variant of the SARS-CoV-2 in the country,” she said.
The B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and the B.1.351 variant, which was first detected in South Africa, were found in most of the latest sample cases of the disease analyzed by the Philippine Genome Center.
Based on random sampling of patients with COVID-19, the UK variant has been detected in Metro Manila and in eight regions, while the South Africa variant has been detected in Metro Manila and four regions.
The P.3 variant, first detected in the Philippines, has also been found in Metro Manila and in four regions, but authorities have maintained that it is not considered a “variant of concern.”
The P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil, has so far infected two returning overseas Filipinos.
Abeyasinghe said the WHO was also looking into the number of people affected and treatment outcomes, a process, which, he pointed out, would take time.
“And so as regards to the severity of disease and indeed, even regarding the transmission potential of the P.3 variant, we are still analyzing the data and so we can’t conclude conclusively about the potential impact of this variant. So it is still listed as a ‘variant of interest’ rather than a ‘variant of concern,’” he said.
Cases with the P.3 variant are “increasing” in Central Visayas, Vergeire said.
On Monday, the DOH reported 9,628 additional COVID-19 cases, pushing the country’s total to 945,745.
It listed as recovered 9,266 mild and asymptomatic patients who had completed a 14-day quarantine, bringing total recoveries to 788,322.
The death toll reached 16,048 after 88 more fatalities were confirmed.
The country still has 141,375 active cases, of which 96.9 percent are mild, 1.5 percent asymptomatic, 0.43 percent moderate, 0.7 percent severe, and 0.5 percent critical. INQ
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