MANILA - The Department of Health is considering a travel ban on India after a new COVID-19 variant infected hundreds of thousands in one of Asia's most populated countries.
The new variant — B.1.617 — has added more than 300,000 fresh infections last week, with patients appearing mostly in India and some in the United States, Australia, Israel, Singapore and parts of Europe.
"We are now discussing [a possible travel ban]. We are looking at all the information that we have regarding these variants from India," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told ANC's Headstart.
The variant from India was first detected last October 2020, she said.
"Tinitingnan natin kung (We are monitoring if) up until now, we can say we still have not detected it in the Philippines," she said.
"We are also looking at our records baka meron din tayong variants na hindi natin nakita before (if we have variants we have not seen before)," she said.
The World Health Organization earlier described B.1.617 as a "variant of interest."
After the variant was first identified last year, India's health ministry flagged it in late March, saying it appeared in 15-20 percent of samples analyzed from the worst-hit state Maharashtra.
In less than a month, the said COVID-19 variant has affected 60 percent of samples from the same Indian state.
Other variants detected in Brazil, South Africa and the UK have been categorized as "of concern," because they are more transmissible, virulent or might reduce antibody efficacy.