Philippines mulls travel ban from India over new COVID-19 variant

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 26 2021 12:32 PM

Philippines mulls travel ban from India over new COVID-19 variant 1
Devotees gather for an evening prayer on the banks of Ganges river during Kumbh Mela, or the Pitcher Festival, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Haridwar, India, April 11, 2021. Anushree Fadnavis, Reuters

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.

Philippines mulls travel ban from India over new COVID-19 variant 2
A health worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) carries a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside the casualty ward at Guru Teg Bahadur hospital, in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2021. Adnan Abidi, Reuters

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.

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