The Philippines on Tuesday detected its first two cases of B. 1.617 Covid-19 variant also known as “double mutant” strain, which was first discovered in virus-hit India last October 2020, the Department of Health (DoH) said on Tuesday.
The announcement was made a few hours before the World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified the Indian variant as a variant of concern at the global level after preliminary studies showed it is more transmissible compared to other variants.
The two cases are from both male seafarers and returning overseas Filipino workers from the Middle Eastern countries and have no travel history in India, according to DoH Epidemiology Bureau Dr. Alethea de Guzman.
The first case is a 37-year-old man who came from Oman and arrived in the country on April 10. He tested positive for Covid-19 on April 15 and underwent isolation in a hotel in the National Capital Region. He recovered on April 26, and currently tagged asymptomatic in his hometown in Region 12.
The patient also underwent additional home quarantine and repeated RT-PCR test which turned out negative on May 3.
The second case is a 58-year-old man who came from the United Arab Emirates and arrived in the country on April 19. He tested positive for Covid-19 on April 24 and underwent isolation in a Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga. He recovered on May 6 and currently asymptomatic in his hometown in Bicol.
“Since they went quarantine and were put into an isolation facility after they tested positive, they have no close contact,” De Guzman added.
The two patients came from 155 plane passengers who entered the country from April 1 to April 30. Both patients had already been tagged recovered and currently asymptomatic.
DoH-Technical Advisory Group member and infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana assured the public that once a patient was tagged as recovered, he is no longer infectious.
“There is some evidence that suggests it [Indian variant] is more infectious but there is no evidence that the duration of infectiousness lasts longer than with the other variants,” Salvana said.
The WHO added that some evidence also suggests that the Indian variant may also be able to evade immunity provided by Covid-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, Malacañang underscored the need to increase the country’s health care capacity and bio-surveillance efforts following the detection of the Indian variant in the country.
“Whether or not there is an Indian variant, it is cheaper to invest in health care facilities than to close the entire economy,” presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said in a televised briefing.
The Palace official also noted that the government prohibited the entry of travelers from India, and nearby Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh until May 14 to protect the Philippines from the variant first detected in the South Asian country.
(With reports from MJ BLANCAFLOR)