DOH logs more COVID-19 variant cases amid infection surge

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2021 01:57 PM | Updated as of Mar 21 2021 12:22 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday announced more cases of COVID-19 variants, including the P.3 that was first detected in the Philippines, and those that came from the United Kingdom and South Africa as the country's daily tally surged to record levels.

In a statement, the health department said there were 
6 more cases of the P.3, 46 more cases of the B.1.1.7 or the UK variant, as well as 62 newly-reported infections of the B.1.351 or the variant first recorded in South Africa. 

This was based on results of the genome sequencing of 150 samples that came mostly from laboratories in pandemic epicenter Metro Manila, the statement read. 

This brings the total number of P.3 variant cases in the country to 104, UK variant cases to 223, and South African variant infections to 152. 

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 BREAKDOWN

NEW P.3 VARIANT CASES

Four of the 6 additional P.3 variant infections were from Metro Manila, the DOH said. Two cases meanwhile are still being verified. All cases remain as active cases. 

First announced by the health department last week, the P.3 pertains to a variant containing “mutations of concern” previously detected in the Philippines. It is not yet proven, however, that the variant is more transmissible or may cause problems with vaccine efficacy.

The health department reiterated that "the P.3 variant is still not identified as a variant of concern as current available data are insufficient to conclude whether the variant will have significant public health implications," the DOH statement read.

The Philippine Genome Center earlier this week said that the P.3 variant might have developed locally and might be more transmissible. It does not suggest, however, that it has increased pathogenicity or could cause severe symptoms of the disease.

SOUTH AFRICAN VARIANT 

The health department said 43 of the 62 cases of the B.1.351 variant were local cases. A total of 41 came from Metro Manila, while the 2 new cases of the variant were detected in Calabarzon. 

The remaining 19 infections are still being verified as of this posting.

A total of 60 of the newly-confirmed South African variant cases are currently active, and 2 have recovered, the DOH said.

The variant was first identified in South Africa in December, where it now predominates. It has also now been detected in over 40 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

South African scientists say there is no clear evidence that the variant triggers more severe disease or worse outcomes. But it does appear to spread faster than previous iterations of the virus.

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 UK VARIANT 

A total of 36 of the 46 additional B.1.1.7 cases were also from Metro Manila. Two cases, meanwhile, were detected in returning overseas Filipinos. 

The Filipino returnees were from the Cagayan Valley and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, based on their indicated addresses. 

The remaining 8 cases, on the other hand, are still being verified by the DOH. 

Citing the agency's database, the statement said that 45 of the reported cases are still considered active, while a patient has already recovered.

The country on Friday recorded its highest ever daily tally of some 7,103 new COVID-19 cases, despite being under lockdown for more than a year.

Research group OCTA, a unit of professors and analysts providing timely updates on the Philippines' COVID-19 situation, earlier in the day said new infections could reach 10,000 daily if the spread is not controlled. 

Most of the newly-recorded infections recently came from the capital region, home to a tenth of the Philippine population.

The surge in new cases was blamed on health protocol breaches and looser quarantine restrictions, with the presence of local variants as supposedly only a factor. 

- With a report from Reuters