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IATF forms technical working group on COVID-19 variants

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IATF forms technical working group on COVID-19 variants
Artist's rendition of the coronavirus disease.
Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

MANILA, Philippines — In adherence to a previous order made by President Rodrigo Duterte, the COVID-19 task force this week formed a Technical Working Group on COVID-19 Variants.

This comes amid growing fear, both at home and across the globe, of a new coronavirus strain that emerged in the United Kingdom which experts believe to be significantly more contagious than the original. Hong Kong recently reported its first four cases of the strain — one of whom was a 30-year-old female resident of the area, who returned from Manila on December 22.

"This technical working group will monitor and identify the occurrence of new variants of COVID-19 in the country and will provide policy recommendations to the IATF on the appropriate response regarding these variants," a Wednesday press release from the Presidential Communications Operations Office read.

"Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire will chair the technical working group. Executive Director Jaime Montoya of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development will serve as co-chair," it added.

Vergeire earlier the same morning said the DOH is coordinating with the International Health Regulations focal point of Hong Kong for further details on the patient from Manila.

Experts from the DOH Technical Advisory Group, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health, the UP - Philippine Genome Center, and research institution EpiMetrics will also form part of the TWG.

On Saturday, the health department maintained that the new variant has not yet been detected in the Philippines. Over 50 countries have placed travel restrictions on the UK in a bid to prevent the strain's spread. The Philippines has also placed a travel ban on 20 other countries that have recorded cases of the variant.

As of this writing, there are over 479,000 recorded cases of coronavirus in the country and the death toll stands at a grim 9,321. It has been 297 days since parts of the country were first placed under lockdown. — Bella Perez-Rubio

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