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OCTA: UK variant could have entered the country as early as September

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The OCTA Research Group on Saturday raised the possibility that the new variant of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) could have entered the country undetected as cases were already reported in other countries, particularly in the United Kingdom as early as September.

In an interview over DZMM, Professor Guido David of OCTA Research Group noted the Philippines only started to impose a travel ban on countries with confirmed cases of the new variant in December, months after its detection in the United Kingdom (UK).

“Most likely the variant is already present in the country based on probabilities since it was September when the new variant was reported in the United Kingdom and now we are seeing more variants that are coming out, like in Brazil, South Africa, and even the United States,” David said.

David added that before the declaration of the travel ban from affected countries, the authorities failed to strictly monitor the borders to ensure that carriers of the variant will be identified.

“So, it’s very possible that it is now in the country but the variant did not spread,” he added.

The first known local patient of variant B117 is a male resident of Quezon City who departed for Dubai on 27 December for business purposes and returned to the country on 7 January via Emirates Flight No. EK 332.

At the same time, David, admitted that the Philippine Genome Center is also testing limited samples of individuals who were positive of the COVID-19.

“We are only testing limited samples since the sequencing of this virus is expensive. We haven’t detected these new variants from local testing. What we are testing are those coming from other countries. That is why the first case of the new UK variant was detected from an individual who traveled abroad,” David explained.

David said that despite the threat of the new COVID-variant, the country has already flattened the curve of the virus since September.

“In Metro Manila, we have flattened the curve since September were we have a downward trend. It only started to increase in December then by January, it again starting to increase after the holidays and then it is now stabilizing,” David explained.

David added that at present the reproduction rate in Metro Manila is pegged at 1.1 percent.

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