Philippines steps up screening for 'FLiRT' variants at entry points

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Philippines steps up screening for 'FLiRT' variants at entry points
An airport security guides visitors from China as they arrive at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque, Metro Manila on January 24, 2023.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — All entry points in the Philippines have been ordered to implement stringent screening for visitors arriving from countries with cases of so-called “FLiRT” variants of COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday. 

The DOH on Monday confirmed the issuance of a memorandum directing Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) stations to be on heightened alert for FLiRT variants, which include KP.1 and KP.2.

“All stations have been directed to conduct thorough screening at points of entry for arriving visitors originating from countries where COVID FLiRT incidents have been detected,” read the BOQ memorandum dated May 24. 

BOQ personnel were also instructed to remind travelers to complete the health questionnaire available on the e-Travel application. 

DOH spokesperson Albert Domingo said the directive to BOQ came from Health Secretary Ted Herbosa. 

The FLiRT variants appeared to be contributing to a rising wave of COVID-19 cases across the globe, including Singapore. 

KP.2 and KP.3 are nicknamed “FLiRT” due to specific changes in the virus’ spike protein. The World Health Organization observed that “there are currently no reported laboratory or epidemiological reports indicating any association between variants of interest/variants under monitoring and increased disease severity.”

The DOH said this means there is currently no evidence that the KP.2 and KP.3 variants cause severe or critical COVID-19, either locally or internationally.

The health department earlier reported a slight increase in COVID-19 cases, but stressed that all regions in the country remained at low risk for transmission. 

It also said the uptick in cases does not warrant the implementation of travel restrictions.

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