MANILA - Majority of coronavirus cases of the P.3 variant first detected in the Philippines were discovered in Central Visayas, a health official said Thursday.
"Of the 98 cases that we have detected to be positive for the P.3 variant, I think 80 percent were coming from Region 7," Dr. Alethea de Guzman of Department of Health's epidemiology bureau told ANC.
She noted they were still verifying the location of other cases as some patients could had been tested in other areas but lived in other regions.
Health experts are now investigating the potential impact of the P.3 variant, which contains the N501Y and E484K mutations.
"The first one has been reported to lead to higher transmissibility and as such possible increase, a large increase of our cases and the second has the potential effect on our vaccine efficacy," De Guzman said.
E484K and N501Y mutations are both found in variants discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil. Variants are subtypes of a virus that are distinct but not that different from the original virus to be considered a new strain.
De Guzman said they had yet to determine if the P.3 variant could also be driving the surge of new infections in the country.
"Right now, that's also part of what we're studying. Again, one of the potential impacts of this variant is it increases transmissibility, meaning much like what we're seeing in countries like the UK," she said.
The health official called on the public to be vigilant.
"Our attitude should be enhanced [and] should always be on the lookout because we don't want to become infected. We don't want this to become the predominant variants in the Philippines," De Guzman said.
"If these variants of concern right now, it's accounting for around 7 percent of all the samples we are sequencing. But what if it becomes 50 percent or what if it becomes all of the samples we're sequencing [were] positive for these variants of concern, it really will lead to a large spike in our cases," she added.
To date, the UK variant or B.1.1.7 has 41 local cases in the Cordillera Administrative Region, 39 in the National Capital Region, 4 in Calabarzon, 2 in Central Luzon and 1 in Northern Mindanao.
Local cases refer to patients who have not traveled outside of the country.
For the South African variant or B.1.351, there are 64 cases in NCR, and 1 each in Cagayan Valley and Northern Mindanao.
Meanwhile, the first case of the Brazil variant or P.1 was found in a Filipino who had returned from the Latin American country.