The new strain of COVID-19 first spotted in the U.K. has not been detected in the Philippines based on the more than 300 samples collected and analyzed in November and December last year, according to the Philippine Genome Center.
This comes after reports that a passenger traveling from Manila back to Hong Kong tested positive for the new strain of the coronavirus.
But this doesn’t mean the public can rest easy just yet.
In an online forum on Wednesday, January 6, the Department of Health urged the public to be vigilant.
If the new variant enters the country and becomes the dominant strain of the COVID-19, it is likely that it will result in significantly higher infection rates.
“If the variant takes over, the 20,000 cases can become almost 300,000 cases by the end of the month. This is what we want to avoid,” said Dr. John Wong, founder of the health research institution EpiMetrics. EpiMetrics is a research firm that is part of the Philippines’ Inter-Agency Task Force working group on data analytics.
Wong added that while the new variant does not cause a severe disease, having more cases means there will be an increase in the “absolute number of deaths.”
“Instead of 74 cases, with the current (reproduction number), we would get about 700 deaths,” he said.
“This can become very serious if the variant becomes the dominant strain. But we should also remember that it’s within our power to control this with our own behavior,” Wong also said.
The DOH said that the new variant’s mode of transmission remains the same—which further highlights the need to practice and follow health safety protocols such as the use of face masks and social distancing.
“While we have not detected the new variant yet, kailangan po natin maintindihan na hindi po tayo pwede mag-relax,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
She added, “Kailangan tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang pagprotekta sa ating sarili.”