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The South African variant of COVID-19 is now in the Philippines

By Bim Santos Published Mar 02, 2021 4:54 am

The South African variant of COVID-19 is now in the country, with the Department of Health (DOH) reporting six known cases as of today.

DOH Usec. Maria Vergeire said that three of the six cases are from Pasay City, two are returning overseas Filipino workers from Qatar and UAE, while one is still being determined.

The DOH said that of the three cases in Pasay, two remain active, namely a 61-year-old female and a 39-year-old female. The third one, a 40-year-old-male, has already recovered.

The three samples from the cases in Pasay were collected between Jan. 27 to Feb. 13.

The COVID-19 variant first found in South African shows no indication that it causes more severe illness, but experts are looking at concerns that it may be more contagious and that vaccines may not work well against it.

The World Health Organization said that based on preliminary studies, a variant of the South African COVID-19 strain has a “higher viral load, which may suggest potential for increased transmissibility.”

Vergeire said that it is still too early to determine if the presence of the South African strain is causing a spike in infections.

“We need to do a thorough analysis for us to be able to really confirm and say that it is the variant that is the cause,” said Vergeire.

Last Friday, Feb. 26, the country logged 2,651 new cases according to the DOH, which was the highest in four months.

With the concerns on the efficacy of vaccines against the South African variant in a phenomenon called “immune escape,” Vergeire said they are trying to “contain” the cases from spreading further.

“Kaya ang gusto natin as much as possible, fast containment tayo sa variant na ito para we can prevent its further spread,” said Vergeire.

The DOH also reported 30 new cases of the UK strain of COVID-19.

The new cases come after the vaccination program of the government started yesterday, which initially targets frontline healthcare workers.

“Lagi po natin tatandaan, na hindi lang naman po yung bakuna ang magiging proteksyon sa sakit na ito,” Vergeire said. “Tuluy-tuloy pa rin ang ating minimum public health safety standards.”