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6 cases of South African variant detected in Philippines
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said data showed that among the six South African variant cases, three are in Pasay City. Samples from these three local cases were collected between Jan. 27 and Feb. 13 this year.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

6 cases of South African variant detected in Philippines

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - March 3, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) reported yesterday the detection of six cases of B.1.351 or the South African variant of COVID-19.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said data showed that among the six South African variant cases, three are in Pasay City. Samples from these three local cases were collected between Jan. 27 and Feb. 13 this year.

One of them is a 61-year-old female while the other is a 39-year-old male. The third is a 40-year-old male who has already recovered.

The other two cases are returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, while the sixth case is being validated if an or a local case.

At the same time, the DOH said the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) had sequenced 30 more cases of B117 or the United Kingdom variant, bringing the total cases to 57.

Meanwhile, two more “mutations of interest” with both N501Y and E484K mutations were recorded in Region 7. These samples were found among the eighth batch of 350 positive swab samples processed by PGC for genome sequencing.

Vergeire noted that while both the South African and UK variants have “higher transmissibility,” there are initial studies saying that South African variant has an “immune escape” component that can affect vaccine efficacy.

She did not discount the possibility that the presence of the new variants is contributing to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Malacañang vowed to intensify health and safety protocols after the discovery of the South African strain in the country.

“We are really monitoring this. We cannot deny that as long as COVID is there, more people will be infected. What is important is we are in a position to provide medical attention and help to those who are in need,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

Localized lockdown

The Pasay City government reiterated that the city wouldn’t change its vaccination plans despite the reported ineffectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the South African variant of COVID-19.

“We would not be changing our orders because we need to see what is really the truth. We should verify the information,” Mayor Emi Rubiano said in Filipino.

“This is something new, and we are still at the level of studying all the long-term effects and benefits of all the vaccines, especially with the new variant,” said Dr. John de Gracia of the Pasay City General Hospital.

The mayor also bared that 210 houses in 77 communities are under localized lockdown due to the spike in COVID-19 cases, with the whole Barangay 183 is under lockdown.

Department of the Interior and Local Government spokesman Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the national government has allotted 5,000 China-made Sinovac vaccines for Pasay City’s baranggay health workers.  –  Ralph Edwin Villanueva, Alexis Romero, Emmanuel Tupas

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