MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday confirmed the Philippines' first case of the COVID-19 Lambda variant, a "variant of interest" (VOI) which studies have reportedly shown is more transmissible and vaccine-resistant than the original virus.
According to the agency, the Philippines' first Lambda case is a 35-year-old female. The DOH, however, has yet to determine "whether she is a local or returning overseas Filipino."
She was asymptomatic and has already recovered after undergoing the 10-day isolation period.
The DOH assured the public that contact tracing is underway.
"This variant of interest has the potential to affect the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 and is currently being monitored for its possible clinical significance," DOH said.
The Lambda variant, C.37, and was first detected in Peru last year, is more infectious than the original strain emerging from Wuhan, China in late 2019. Studies have shown that it is more resistant to COVID-19 vaccines.
It was classified as a VOI by the World Health Organization last June 14.
Philippine Genome Center Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma in early July said the variant is an "emerging global public health risk" because it was first detected in Peru, which so far has the highest COVID-19 death rate.
But in a recent call with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, disease experts said Lambda did not appear to be causing increased transmissibility, and vaccines appear to be holding up well against it.
The DOH also announced 182 new COVID-19 Delta variant cases, which first emerged from India, most or 112 of which are local infections.
A total of 36 are returning overseas Filipinos (ROF), while 34 are still under verification.
Of the 182 freshly detected Delta variant carriers, 176 have already recovered, 4 have died, while 1 is still under verification.
This brings the country's total Delta infections to 807. DOH also corrected its previous advisory, saying that 2 Delta cases announced earlier turned out to be Beta cases.
According to the agency, the country also has 41 fresh Alpha cases, the variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom, pushing the total to 2,232. Only 19 cases of the said variant are still active.
There were also 66 Beta variant infections, bringing the known carriers in the Philippines to 2,483. Eighteen carriers are still battling the disease.
A total of 40 people were also found to have the P.3 variant, all of which have already recuperated. This raised the total P.3 strain infections to 347. Only 1 is still active.
The P.3 variant was first reported in Central Visayas in February. It is no longer considered a variant of interest.
The said variant has the mutation that is linked to increased transmissibility, but there is no proof yet that it actually causes that effect, officials have said.
The developments came as the Philippines struggles to contain the growth of COVID-19 infections, with the health department reporting 14,749 fresh cases on Saturday — the second-highest daily tally since the pandemic reached the country.
Philippines recorded 15,310 COVID-19 cases on April 2 — its highest ever.
Several hospitals in the country are also already announcing critical to full health care capacity as the stream of virus admissions continued.
— with reports from Reuters