The Philippine government is not discounting the possibility of imposing stricter lockdowns to prevent the spread of the new and more infectious Covid-19 variant, Malacañang said Thursday.
This came after the Department of Health (DoH) announced the first local patient of variant B117, which heightened fear and anxiety among Filipinos who have suffered from large-scale restrictions for almost a year due to the ongoing pandemic.
In a televised briefing, presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the government considers reverting to stricter quarantine restrictions following the development.
“There is a possibility since the new variant is more contagious and it means more people will get sick,” the Palace official said.
“But if they won’t be hospitalized because it’s mild, there is also a possibility that the quarantine classifications won’t change. Let’s take a look at it,” Roque added.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, said there is nothing to fear yet if people will follow the minimum health standards prescribed by the government.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, for his part, said reverting to stricter community quarantine is not yet necessary based on benchmarks on the daily attack rates and two-week growth rate recorded by the department.
Duque added that experts are monitoring the pandemic figures and will recommend the adjustments needed in terms of quarantine protocols to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“As of now, there is no signal yet to restrict our present community quarantine,” he said in a separate briefing.
The Health chief noted that local government units are free to implement localized lockdowns if deemed necessary.
The DoH, along with the Philippine Genome Center, confirmed on Wednesday that the B117 SARS-CoV-2 variant, first discovered in the United Kingdom, has been detected on a Filipino who returned home from the United Arab Emirates.
The patient is a 29-year-old real estate agent and male resident of Kamuning, Quezon City who departed for Dubai on December 27 for business purposes and arrived in the country on 7 January via Emirates Flight No. EK 332.
He is now undergoing medication for pneumonia. (With Francis Wakefield)