Philippines on lookout for 3 virus strains

Health authorities are monitoring the entry of two other coronavirus variants aside from a more contagious strain from the United Kingdom, where there had been a fresh surge in infections.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire noted that aside from the UK variant, they were looking out for the variants from South Africa and Malaysia.

“The three variants are already being monitored as it reflects signature mutations in the spike region of the virus, as has been studied in affected countries,” she told reporters in a Viber group message.

The Philippine Genome Center would continue analyzing positive samples to monitor the new strains, she said.

Health regional offices were tapped to get samples from different regions specifically in the Visayas and Mindanao regions for genome sequencing.

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South African Health authorities last month identified the new variant that has caused a second wave of infections there, while a Malaysian health official also announced the detection of another variant in December, according to separate Reuters reports in December.

The Genome Center had not detected the UK variant in the initial 305 positive samples from patients admitted to various hospitals in the past two months and from inbound travelers who tested positive at the airports.

A 30-year-old Filipina domestic helper from Cagayan Valley Region who arrived in Hong Kong in northern Philippines last Dec. 22 tested positive for the UK variant.

DoH said on Thursday she had been isolated in Hong Kong and was stable. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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