Video courtesy of DOH
MANILA — Filipinos may learn this week if the new and more infectious COVID-19 virus variant has entered the country, the Department of Health said Monday.
“Hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday this week, we can get the results already of these passengers (arriving from abroad) that were swabbed,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.
The health official said they also included samples from other COVID-19 patients infected in November and December.
“So, 'yung mga nasa ospital, nakakuha tayo ng samples dun sa mga may clustering ng cases doon sa mga closed institutions. Kumuha rin tayo ng samples,” Vergeire said.
(We got samples from the hospitals and those areas where there are clustering of cases, as well as closed institutions.)
She said expanding the source of samples would give them an idea if the new variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, has already entered the country.
Before Christmas, the Philippines started banning travelers — except Filipino nationals — coming from the United Kingdom. This was followed by travel restrictions on 19 other countries and Hong Kong.
Vergeire said the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) has already received the samples.
“They’ve given us 7 days for the processing of the genome sequencing,” she said, explaining that the center has a machine capable of sequencing more than 700 swab samples.
The DOH first mentioned on Dec. 29 the plan to sequence swab samples on Dec. 29.
Before that, the PGC and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine were able to test samples from patients until October.
Vergeire said Filipinos arriving from affected countries are now being swabbed twice — one for the polymerase chain reaction test to check for COVID-19, and another in case gene sequencing would be required.
Only those who test positive for COVID-19 will have their samples forwarded to the PGC.
The Philippines has recorded 477,807 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Sunday, including 20,292 active infections, 9,244 deaths, and 448,258 recoveries.