MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday confirmed that more transmissible COVID-19 variants have already been detected in all Metro Manila cities but it would be up to the World Health Organization to declare whether there is already community transmission of variants in the Philippines.
“Talagang nakita na natin itong mga variants nasa lahat na ng cities dito sa atin sa Metro Manila,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing. “Meron na tayo either the UK variant or the South African variant. Also in other cities meron na siya both UK variant and South African variant.”
(We have seen these variants in all cities in Metro Manila…We have either the UK variant of the South African variant. Also in other cities, both the UK variant and the South African variant have been detected.)
Both the UK (B.1.1.7) and the South African (B.1.351) variants are believed to make the COVID-19 virus more transmissible.
Despite the presence of the variants in all Metro Manila cities, Vergeire said they would still have to consult with the World Health Organization.
“Kailangan natin i-confer sa WHO if indeed community transmission of these variants are present already,” she said.
(We have to confer with the WHO if there is indeed community transmission of these variants.)
“Yes the variants are here and yes it has contributed to the increase in the number of cases kung paano bumilis sya. But aside from that, let us remember hindi lang 'yun ang naging factor natin. Kailangan nating balikan ang root cause of the factor. And that would be 'yung ating compliance sa health protocols and of course some institutional gaps na meron tayo,” the health official pointed out.
(Yes the variants are here and yes it has contributed to the increase in the number of cases, of how fast it spread. But aside from that, let us remember that is not the only factor. We have to go back to the root cause. And that would be our compliance to health protocols and of course some institutional gaps that we have.)
Last March 17, the DOH said that among the 17 cities in the National Capital Region, 13 have the UK variant and 8 have the South African variant.
However, the number of variant cases increased over the weekend. Of the 150 COVID-positive samples tested for the variants, most were from the National Capital Region. The samples yielded 46 additional UK variant cases, 62 additional South African variant cases and 6 more P.3 variant cases.
Before that, a DOH official said that if the variants become dominant among new cases, infections may rise by up to 28 times.
The P.3 variant was first detected in the Philippines but has yet to be declared a variant of concern. It has similar mutations to the UK and South African variants but experts said it has yet to be seen if the combination of mutations present in the P.3 can really make it more transmissible or affect the efficacy of vaccines.
In the past weeks, new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila have significantly increased and even reached an all-time high of 7,999 on March 20.