MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippine government is urged to enforce mandatory quarantine period for returning Filipinos following the discovery of a COVID-19 variant in France which cannot be detected in PCR tests, OCTA Research said Wednesday.
In mid-March, French authorities said they were investigating a new coronavirus variant found in the western Brittany region that was more difficult for tests to detect, though for now it does not appear to be more dangerous or contagious.
Government is also urged to intensify its contact tracing and "scale up" its COVID-19 testing, said OCTA Research fellow Guido David.
"May bagong variant na hindi na-dedetect ng PCR test...Kung ganun, ibig sabihin, ayusin natin ang international travel protocols natin," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(There's a new variant that cannot be detected by PCR test... This means we need to put in place international travel protocols.)
"Dapat pag may papasok na returning Filipinos o tourists, dapat mandatory na ang quarantine period kasi hindi nade-detect ng PCR."
(Returning Filipinos or tourists must undergo a mandatory quarantine period because this variant cannot be detected by a PCR test.)
Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the Department of Tourism will continue to coordinate with health officials to come up with solutions to the evolving COVID-19 crisis.
"As such, the DOT will support any measure of the IATF-MEIF to detect and abate the spread of the disease," she said in a statement.
"The DOT reminds the public to remain vigilant against this serious threat to their health, as the safety of all travelers, tourism workers, and host communities remains the Department’s top priority," Romulo-Puyat added.
OCTA projects the rise of Metro Manila's virus cases to slow "sometime next week" after the region was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine from strict lockdown.
"Unfortunately, yung pagkapuno ng hospitals, it will be a problem for a while kasi hindi pa significant ang ibababa ng cases natin sa NCR (National Capital Region)," David said.
(Unfortunately, hospitals at full capacity will be a problem for a while because the decline of cases in NCR is not yet significant.)
"Matagal pa yung 1,000 to 2,000 cases per day natin. If it happens, baka bandang June or July. Mas mahirap kasi mapababa ang number of cases."
(It will be long before we reach 1,000 to 2,000 cases per day. If it happens, it will be around June or July. It's more difficult to lower the number of cases.)
Accelerating the country's vaccination program will also hasten the decline of COVID-19 cases, according to David.
"Based sa aming simulations, 'pag nag-vaccinate tayo ng 1 million people (sa NCR), mapapababa ang reproduction number by 0.1," he said.
(Based on our simulations, if we vaccinate 1 million people, the reproduction number will go down by 0.1.)
"Pag nag-vaccinate tayo ng 2 million, pwede natin ma-flatten or mapababa na talaga ang trend sa NCR."
(If we vaccinate 2 million, we can flatten or decrease the trend in NCR.)
The Philippines on Wednesday logged 8,122 more COVID-19 cases, bringing its total number of coronavirus infections to 892,880.
The country, which began its immunization program against coronavirus last month, has administered 1.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday morning.
--With a report from Agence France-Presse