New COVID variants detected among returning OFWs

MANILA, Philippines—Four new COVID-19 variants were detected among 31 returning overseas Filipino workers including crew members aboard MV Athens Bridge.

The Department of Health, University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center, and UP-National Health Institute jointly announced the development Saturday.

There were a total of 37 samples sequenced with 31 of those bearing the four variants.

Of those who tested positive, 10 bore the B.1.617.2 variant, 13 had the B.1.1.7 variant, seven were infected with the B.1.351 variant and one was carrying the P.3 variant.

The B.1.617.2 was first detected in India, the B.1.1.7 in the United Kingdom, B.1.351 in South Africa, and P.3 in the Philippines.

Of the 10 B.1.617.2 carriers, one was a seafarer who came from Belgium while the other nine were crew members of MV Athens Bridge.

The seafarer disembarked in Belgium and flew back to Manila via the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He arrived in the Philippines on a flight last April 24 before completing his isolation period last May 13.

Four crew members of the MV Athens Bridge who are admitted to a hospital in Manila are currently in stable condition while the five others are in an isolation facility.

Of those carrying the B.1.1.7 variant, one of them died while 12 were tagged as recovered patients.

While the government is implementing stricter border control measures, the DOH urges the public to strictly adhere to the minimum public health standards and immediately get vaccinated when it’s their turn. By following these measures, infection and further mutation of COVID-19 can be prevented.  A low transmission rate means fewer chances for the virus to mutate,” read the announcement.