No new COVID-19 variant detected in Philippines yet — DOH

No new COVID-19 variant detected in Philippines yet � DOH
A shopper wearing a face mask and shield browses aisle at a grocery in Cubao.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health stressed that it has yet to detect the new and rapidly transmissible variant of COVID-19 in the Philippines as it urged the public to refrain from sharing unverified information.

The DOH issued the statement late Monday in response to social media posts that the new coronavirus variant was detected in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak.

“The Department of Health and the Philippine Genome Center, to date, have not detected the UK variant, or any new variant of SARS-COV-2 in any of the positive samples tested,” the DOH said.

The analysis of the PGC, results of which were released last week, was based on 305 samples collected in November and December last year.

According to genomic researchers, the most common variant observed in local samples was the D614G, which was first detected in the country in June last year.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said that authorities are also keeping an eye on the new COVID-19 variants detected in South Africa and in nearby Malaysia.

“The DOH and PGC are closely working together in order to intensify on-going biosurveillance efforts,” the department said.

Compliance is ‘best defense’

The DOH also called on the public to avoid disseminating unverified information that may cause panic and confusion.

It also stressed the importance of strict compliance to minimum and mandated health protocols set by the government.

“Whether or not a new variant is detected, the DOH reiterates that strict adherence to minimum public health standards (MPHS) is the best defense against COVID-19 and strongly urges the public to continue practicing across all settings to lower the rate of infection and reduce the risk of viral mutation,” the DOH said.

Experts warned that once the new variant reaches the Philippines and eventually becomes the most prevalent variant locally, it will lead to much higher number of infections.

The government has so far imposed travel restrictions on at least 27 countries in a bid to keep out new COVID-19 variants from reaching the country.

The threat of the new variant comes as authorities anticipate a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country after the holiday season. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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