MANILA, Mar 13 (Mabuhay) — A Department of Health expert on Saturday said that the new coronavirus variant recently detected in Japan is unique to the Philippines and has already been assigned a designation.

On Friday, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) said a new COVID-19 variant was detected from a traveler from the Philippines on February 25.

The NIID said the variant contains N501Y and E484K, which are two mutations of concern that were detected in Central Visayas last month.

During state-run PTV’s Laging Handa briefing, DOH technical working group focusing on new coronavirus variants expert-member Anna Ong-Lim said that the Philippine Genome Center shared data about the 85 cases with E484K and N5016 mutations to a global reporting system —Phylogenetic Assignment of Named Global Outbreak Lineages (PANGOLIN).

“We are waiting for them to let us know if this is unique to the Philippines or has been discovered in other countries,” Ong-Lim said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“They came back to us and told us that this is a new variant and they are assigning it the P.3 [variant], designation of P.3,” Ong-Lim said.

In a separate statement, the DOH said the PANGOLIN verified that the said samples with these mutations – E484K and N501y – “have been reassigned to the P.3 variant, belonging to the B.1.1.28 lineage, to which the P.1 variant also belongs.”

“Thirteen additional cases were detected in this batch which bring the total P.3 variant cases in the country to 98,” it added.

“The DOH, UP-PGC, and UP-NIH emphasize that at present, the P.3 is NOT identified as a variant of concern as current available data are insufficient to conclude whether the variant will have significant public health implications,” it said.

Ong-Lim said that evidence and data are still not sufficient to determine that the P.3 variant is more contagious or has an association with higher mortality rates.

“We are still observing the impacts or the characteristics of the particular variant identified,” she said.  (MNS)

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