SUSTAINED BIOSURVEILLANCE EFFORTS DETECT 6 B.1.351 CASES, 30 B.1.1.7 CASES, AND 2 CASES WITH MUTATIONS OF INTEREST

Press Release | 2 March 2021

The Department of Health (DOH), the UP-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the UP-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) report the detection of six (6) B.1.351 variant (South Africa variant) cases, thirty (30) additional B.1.1.7 variant (UK variant) cases, and two (2) additional cases with mutations of interest among the 8th batch of 350 samples sequenced by the UP-PGC.

ON B.1.351 CASES:

To date, there are already 48 countries with reported cases of the B.1.351 variant. While there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease, the pattern of mutations within this variant suggests higher transmissibility and may have an impact on vaccine efficacy.

Of the six (6) South African variant cases, three (3) are local cases, two (2) are returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs), and one (1) case is still being verified as to location.

The three (3) local cases were reported as residents of Pasay City, and whose samples were collected between January 27 and February 13, 2021. Two of the local cases, a 61-year-old female and a 39-year-old male, are active cases being managed by Pasay City. The third local case, a 40-year-old male, has already recovered.

On the other hand, the two ROFs arrived in the country from UAE and Qatar; their statuses are currently being verified. Moreover, the DOH is currently verifying if the sixth case is a local case or an ROF.

ON B.1.1.7 CASES:

Meanwhile, upon submission of the sequencing data of the 62 original B.1.1.7 cases as of last count to the Global Initiative on Sharing of All Influenza Data (GISAID), GISAID reclassified five (5) cases as belonging to other variants. This brought the total number of B.1.1.7 cases in the country to 57. With the addition of the 30 cases detected in the latest genome sequencing batch, the total B.1.1.7 variant cases in the country is now at 87.

Of the 30 additional cases with B.1.1.7 variant, twenty (20) cases are ROFs, three (3) are local cases, and seven (7) are currently being verified if these are local cases or Returning Overseas Filipinos.

The twenty (20) detected ROFs entered the country from the Middle East, Singapore, and the United States of America between January 20 and February 16, 2021. Thirteen (13) of these are asymptomatic active cases, while seven (7) have now recovered.

On the other hand, the three (3) local B.1.1.7 variant cases are from the Cordillera Administrative Region. One case is currently active and is admitted to a hospital, one has recovered, and one is a reported fatality. The linkage of the 3 local cases to previously reported B.1.1.7 variant cases in the region is currently being investigated.

ON CASES WITH MUTATIONS OF INTEREST:

Moreover, based on the latest sequencing results, two (2) additional samples from Region 7 were found to have both N501Y and E484K mutations. The DOH also reports that upon further verification, two (2) cases from Region 7 previously reported to have these mutations have been delisted, thus the total remains at 34 cases.

Despite the arrival of vaccines and the successful initial vaccination activities, the DOH emphasizes that adherence to minimum public health standards is still the best course of action to prevent community transmission and further virus mutations. The DOH further calls on local government units (LGUs) to immediately implement necessary measures in line with the national PDITR strategy. LGUs are also encouraged to be on heightened alert to monitor, detect, and report unusual spikes in cases in their area.