No presence of UK variant of new coronavirus yet in Philippines –DOH

MANILA, Jan 6 (Mabuhay) — The UK variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 disease, identified as B.1.1.7, has not been detected in the country just yet, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

The DOH issued the statement after Hong Kong health authorities reported that the new variant has been detected in one of the passengers from the Philippines who went to Hong Kong on December 22, 2020.

“The DOH and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) today report that the said variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not yet been detected in the country,” the DOH said in a statement.

“Based on the lineage analysis through whole genome sequencing done by the PGC, the UK variant was not detected in any of the 305 positive samples submitted to them from nine institutions.”

The 305 samples analyzed by the PGC, the DOH said, were composed of positive samples from hospital admissions spanning November to December and from inbound travelers who tested positive of COVID-19 upon arrival at the airport.

The Health Department also assured the public that it is in close coordination with Hong Kong’s International Health Regulations focal point to secure official notification and other pertinent information regarding the Hong Kong resident who tested positive for the variant following travel history from the Philippines.

It also called on all local government units and the transport regulators to continuously implement and follow minimum public health standards such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, wearing of face mask and face shield which are the best ways to cut transmission of the variant and minimize the opportunities for virus mutation.

The country’s COVID-19 task force, meanwhile, has created a panel of experts that will monitor and identify the occurrence of new coronavirus variants in the country.

Headed by  DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the technical working group is also mandated to provide policy recommendations to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on the appropriate response regarding these variants.

The formation of the technical working group was in compliance with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte last December 26.

The Philippines has imposed travel restrictions on 21 countries to prevent the entry of the new coronavirus variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom. The travel restrictions will last until January 15.   (MNS)

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