Philippines detects first cases of South Africa COVID-19 variant

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 02 2021 08:31 AM | Updated as of Mar 02 2021 09:47 AM

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines has detected its first six cases of the more transmissible South Africa COVID-19 variant and additional cases of the UK coronavirus variant, the Department of Health said Tuesday.

Of the six South African or B.1.351 variant cases, 3 are local cases, 2 are returning Filipino migrant workers from Qatar and United Arab Emirates, while the location of the remaining case is pending verification, the DOH said in a statement.

The 3 local cases are residents of Pasay City whose samples were collected between January 27 and February 13, the agency said. 

One of the three, a 40-year-old male, has recovered while the other two cases, a 61-year-old female and a 39-year-old male, remain active and are being managed by the local government, it added.

An additional 30 cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variant first detected in the UK (B.1.1.7) were also reported, raising the Philippines' total to 87.

The DOH also reported 2 more virus patients with both N501Y and E484K mutations and delisted 2 previous cases in Central Visayas, which makes the country's tally remain at 34.

First detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa in October, the South African variant has been found in more than 30 countries and accounts for more than 90 percent of SARS-CoV-2 samples in South Africa that undergo genetic sequencing.

Like the UK variant, it also has the N501Y mutation in the spike protein, making it more efficient at gaining access to our cells to replicate.

The South African variant also contains several other concerning mutations, including “E484K” and “K417N” which can reduce how well a person's antibodies bind to the virus.

"The UK variant for example has been established to be more transmissible, but there’s no data to show this has become more virulent or more pathogenic, or more disease-causing. Iba yung infectivity sa (Infectivity is different from) virulence," Health Secretary Francisco Duque told ANC's Headstart.

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