PH gov’t now monitoring 3 new COVID-19 variants

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 08 2021 12:05 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health on Friday announced that it is now checking if 3 new COVID-19 variants, including the United Kingdom variant, have entered the Philippines.

“Sa ngayon, meron na tayong 3 variant na binabantayan. Ito yung sa UK type na variant. Ito yung sa South Africa na variant and there was this identified na variant din dito sa Malaysia,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing. 

(Right now we are monitoring 3 variants. This is the UK type variant, the South Africa variant and the variant identified in Malaysia.)

It was previously reported that a new variant was found in Sabah, a territory claimed by both Malaysia and the Philippines. 

This resulted in a strict lockdown for nearby Sulu province. 

Vergeire said that the more than 300 samples that underwent gene sequencing for the UK variant “were just initial.” The earlier batch of samples did not yield the UK variant or the South Africa variant that is said to affect vaccine efficacy.

“This is a continuing surveillance system that we have established already,” she said, adding that the agency has coordinated with regional offices to source samples from Mindanao and Visayas.

“We are appropriating funds to the Philippine genome center so that we can sustain this because this is important to our surveillance system,” the official added.

Asked if the Philippines is also monitoring the the variant from Nigeria, which is being closely studied by scientists as COVID-19 cases in the country increased, Vergeire said it should show up if there are any.