DOH, UP-PGC, AND UP-NIH BIOSURVEILLANCE DETECTS ADDITIONAL COVID-19 VARIANTS; GOVERNMENT IMPLEMENTS STRICTER BORDER CONTROL MEASURES

Press Release | 15 May 2021

The Department of Health (DOH), the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) today report the detection of ten (10) B.1.617.2 variant cases, thirteen (13) B.1.1.7 variant cases, seven (7) B.1.351 variant cases, and one (1) P.3 variant case among the thirty-seven (37) samples sequenced last May 14, 2021.

The latest sequencing run included the samples from the crew members of the MV Athens Bridge, returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) with relevant travel history, and deceased severe or critical COVID-19 cases.

ON B.1.617.2 VARIANT CASES:

These 10 B.1.617.2 variant cases were in addition to the two cases previously reported last May 11, bringing the total to 12. Of these 10 cases, one was a seafarer who came from Belgium and the other nine were crew members of MV Athens Bridge.

The seafarer disembarked in Belgium and flew back to Manila via the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He arrived in the Philippines on a flight last April 24, 2021. He completed his isolation period last May 13, 2021.

The other nine B.1.617.2 cases were from the 12 PCR-positive Filipino crew of MV Athens Bridge. Four of the nine B.1.617.2 cases remain admitted at a hospital in Manila and are currently in stable condition while the other five are currently in an isolation facility.

Samples of the other three PCR-positive crew members were not eligible for sequencing. Likewise, these three crew members remain in an isolation facility.

UPDATES ON THE DISPOSITION OF CO-PASSENGERS OF CASE 1 AND CASE 2:

The DOH reiterates that all of the close contacts of the first two cases of B.1.617.2, previously reported last May 11, have completed the prescribed 14-day quarantine and have been discharged from their quarantine facility. Of the three initially reported COVID-19 positive cases that are close contacts of the 2nd case in the plane, one was sent for sequencing but was not detected to harbor a variant of concern (VOC).

ON B.1.1.7 VARIANT CASES:

Of the additional 13 B.1.1.7 variant cases detected, three cases are ROFs and 10 are local cases. Based on the case line list, one case has died while 12 have been tagged as recovered.

ON B.1.351 VARIANT CASES:

Of the additional seven B.1.351 variant cases, two cases are ROFs, two are local cases, and three cases are currently being verified if they are local or ROF cases. Based on the case line list, two cases are still active while one has died and four have recovered.

ON P.3 VARIANT CASES:

The additional P.3 variant case is a local case with an address in Region IX. The case died last February 28, 2021.

At present, the P.3 variant is not identified as a VOC. This variant is currently being investigated and information continually collected to determine its public health implication.

While the government is implementing stricter border control measures, the DOH urges the public to strictly adhere to the minimum public health standards and immediately get vaccinated when it’s their turn. By following these measures, infection and further mutation of COVID-19 can be prevented. A low transmission rate means fewer chances for the virus to mutate.