Explained: Lambda, COVID-19 variant of interest


Posted at Jul 07 2021 01:58 PM

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The Lambda COVID-19 variant has spread to some 30 countries. The World Health Organization classifies it as a "variant of interest." But what does this mean, and should the Philippines be wary? 

The Philippines has not detected any case of the Lambda variant, said Philippine Genome Center Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma. 

"As to whether or not it is more deadly or gives more severe symptoms compared to Delta, sa totoo lang pinag-aaralan pa po ‘yan (that is still being studied). We don’t have sufficient data," she said in a televised public briefing. 

"At the same time, hindi rin po natin alam kung ang kaniyang transmissibility mas mataas pa sa Delta variant kasi kaunti lang po talaga ang datos dito," she said. 

(We also don't know if its transmissibility is higher than the Delta variant because data on this are scant.)

Experts are also studying whether or not the Lambda variant can reduce protection from vaccines, said Saloma. 

In contrast, the Delta variant, which first emerged and triggered a catastrophic wave of infections in India, has evidence of increased transmissibility. The WHO has deemed it a variant of concern, she noted. 

However, the Lambda variant is an "emerging global public health risk" because it was first detected in Peru, which has the highest COVID-19 death rate, Saloma said. 

"Kaya binabantayan talaga natin ‘to," she added. 

(This is why we are monitoring it.)

The Philippines has conducted genome sequencing on nearly 8,000 samples since January, she said.

Genome sequencing helps authorities monitor the evolution of COVID-19 and adjust response accordingly, according to the WHO.