COVID-19 situation in Central Visayas not a cause for worry: official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2021 09:37 AM | Updated as of Feb 21 2021 10:57 AM

MANILA - The COVID-19 situation in Central Visayas, where two virus mutations of "potential clinical significance" are being investigated, is not a cause for concern as most of the patients are asymptomatic and the region has enough healthcare capacity, an official said Sunday.

"Di tayo dapat mabahala talaga kasi 80 percent or more of these active cases are actually asymptomatic, followed by the mild cases," Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist of the Department of Health-Central Visayas, told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(We shouldn't be worried because 80 percent or more of these active cases are actually asymptomatic, followed by the mild cases.)

As of Saturday, the region has recorded a total of 35,685 coronavirus infections, of which, 5,952 are active cases.

Cebu City accounts for majority of the cases (16,027), followed by Cebu province (9,436), Mandaue City (3,795), and Lapu-lapu City (3,681).

Nationwide, there are already 559,288 confirmed cases, of which 34,100 are active infections.

Loreche said the region's critical care utilization is at a "safe zone" of 40 percent, while the occupancy of isolation centers is at 30 to 40 percent.

"Umaakyat ang kaso namin. Nag-stabilize in triple digits ang mga kaso namin. Pero, dahil meron kaming emergency operations center that is capable of handling the contact tracing and isolation of these individuals, hindi po tayo nataakot talaga," she said.

(Our cases are increasing. Our additional cases are stabilizing in triple digits. But because we have an emergency operations center that is capable of handling the contact tracing and isolation of these individuals, we're not worried.)

Loreche attributed the reported spike in cases in the region to their improved testing capacity and the relaxed quarantine measures since September that allowed for more "people movement."

"Di naman natin pupuwedeng sabihin na siya yung dahilan kung bakit umakyat yung kaso natin dito sa Central Visayas. Isa lang po yan sa tinitingnan natin na factors bakit umaakyat yung ating mga kaso," Loreche said of the E484K and N501Y SARS-CoV-2 mutations that were detected in samples sequenced from the region.

The Department of Health on Thursday confirmed the detection of the 2 mutations of "potential clinical significance" of COVID-19 in Central Visayas. 

The E484K mutation, which means changes in its genetic sequence, is present in the South African variant of SARS-CoV-2. The N501Y mutation is also found in the UK coronavirus variant, which has been associated by experts with higher transmissibility.

"Sa ngayon, hindi po natin matatawag na Philippine variant siya until makumpleto po ang pag-aaral at pagsusuri ng ating mga eksperto para dito," Loreche said.

(For now, we cannot call it yet as Philippine variant until the investigation by our experts is completed.)

"Ang mahalaga, may napansin, may nakita tayo na may pagbabago sa anyo ng ating SARS-CoV-2 dito sa Central Visayas. And we also believe na baka eto ay nasa Pilipinas na talaga kasi, sabi nga natin, yung pagbibiyahe, yung inter-connectivity ng bawat isang island, ng isang region, palabas-pasok, pwedeng mangyari talaga 'yan," she added.

(What's important, we discovered that there is a change in the SARS-CoV-2 here in the Central Visayas. And we also believe that this could possibly be in the country already because of the travels, the inter-connectivity of islands, of regions, where people come and go.)

A variant refers to a virus that has developed a specific group of mutations causing it to behave differently against the strain it had originated from.

Majority of patients found with mutations E484K and N501Y were asymptomatic, some experienced mild symptoms, and all have finished quarantine, said Loreche.

She also eased concerns about the 2 Filipino migrant workers who were vaccinated abroad but still contracted the virus.

"Ang bakuna po ay effective naman talaga siya. Hindi sila nag-develop ng severe kind of disease. There is a possibility na yung (that the) immunity upon the vaccination... may take time to really kick off the antibodies to protect," she said.

(The vaccine is effective, they did not develop a severe kind of disease.)

"May possibility din naman na sila ay (There is also a possibility that they tested) positive before the vaccination."

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