Cases of South Africa variant could extend Pasay's local lockdowns

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Cases of South Africa variant could extend Pasay's local lockdowns
Pasay City personnel are seen enforcing the localized lockdown in this February 2021 photo
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Pasay City's mayor on Tuesday did not rule out extending the localized lockdown in various barangays as part of their adjustment to the confirmation of cases of the new COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa.

The health department earlier reported that six Filipinos had contracted the B.1.351 after genome sequencing from 350 individuals who tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a briefing, Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano said three came from Pasay and have all since recovered. But with this and a recent surge in infections in the city, she said efforts, including more contact tracing, to contain the virus' spread would be ramped up.

The STAR reported last week that 55 barangays in Pasay had been placed under a localized enhanced community quarantine until Friday, March 5, which Rubiano said could be extended. 

"If cases will go down and are no longer under the parameters set by the IATF then we can lift this," she said in Filipino. " But if this increases, we can extend and include more barangays."

The lockdown in the Pasay City barangays has so far showed help in containment, per the local chief executive, who said active cases are going down. There are now just 40 cases from a high of 103.

Still, it remains a question on how the three contracted the new COVID-19 variant. Rubiano said one is a seafarer while the two others were working individuals.

The first, according to her, had recovered by January 25, suggesting that the variant from South Africa may have been in the country as early as then. The remaining two were also cleared after a two-week quarantine and showing no symptoms.

"To be sure and per advise from the DOH, we are again doing tests on them including those who were exposed to them," Rubiano said. "But I would also like to say that we are still investigating as there may be another potential active case that the DOH is looking into."

No changes in deal with AstraZeneca

In the same briefing, the Pasay mayor said the city's purchase of COVID-19 vaccines from the British-Swedish drugmaker will push through.

The query came after South Africa halted its rollout of the vaccines after preliminary results showed that the jabs offered less protection against the new variant detected there.

A roundup of local governments that have entered into procurement deals with AstraZeneca by Philstar.com showed that Pasay secured 275,000 doses.

The vaccines have yet to arrive in the country, with only the Chinese-made Sinovac available so far.

With the recent growing number of residents in Pasay contracting COVID-19, the national government said 5,000 doses of Sinovac will be sent to the city's general hospital for the health workers there dealing with the health crisis.

Viruses, like the SARS-CoV-2, mutate all the time. As a consequence, the emergence of new variants is expected.

Since its emergence late last year, the variant first seen in South Africa has spread to at least 48 countries. — with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico, and Ralph Villanueva/The STAR

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