Mutation of local SARS-CoV-2 samples, UK variant not similar: DOH

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Sunday there is no similarity in the mutation of the local samples of positive cases with new SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of Covid-19, with the variant found in the United Kingdom (UK).

In an online media forum, Duque explained it is based on the Philippine Genome Center’s genome sequencing and it shows that the isolates in the country are not closely-related with the variants found in the UK.

“Ayon sa mga pag-aaral sa loob ng mga laboratoryo ang bagong mutation ay nakadadagdag sa kakayahan ng virus na maka-infect ng (According to studies in laboratories, the new mutation added on the ability of the virus to infect) human and animal cells, 70 percent higher transmissibility,” he said.

“But there’s no indication yet that this virus is causing more severe disease or if this has any implications on the development of new vaccines against the coronavirus disease,” he added.

More than 40 countries have imposed temporary travel restrictions on travelers from the UK including the Philippines.

Due to the rise in the number of cases during the holidays, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) recommended temporary travel restrictions following IATF Resolution No. 90 approved by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 23.

All flights from the UK shall be temporarily suspended from Dec. 24 until Dec. 31 and all passengers who have been in the UK are likewise temporarily restricted from entering the country for the same period.

While there is no evidence yet that the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 is in the country, Department of Health Technical Advisory Group member Dr. Edsel Salvana said the government wants it out of the country as much as possible.

“Ang Covid ay kumakalat talaga, gusto natin itong i-slow down kung sakali para makapag-prepare tayo kung sakali mang makarating iyan dito. ‘Yung (Covid really spreads, we want to slow down its spread so we can prepare if ever the new variant reaches our country. The level of risk, that would be the risk assessment, the risk is higher if the person is from the UK,” Salvana said.

He added consistent observation of minimum public health standards such as proper wearing of face mask and face shield, proper handwashing, and physical distancing of at least one meter will slow down the spread of coronavirus and its new variant apart from travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the country is considering a travel ban for areas or countries where there have been reported community transmission of cases of the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2.

“We’re currently monitoring the countries with recorded cases of the UK new variant. The confirmation of community transmission in these countries is our standard to impose the travel ban and like what have been said travel bans, restrictions have many implications so we’re studying all of these,” Vergeire added.

Source: Philippines News agency

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