DOH: VARIANT FIRST DETECTED IN INDIA CURRENTLY VUI BASED ON WHO DEFINITIONS, IATF TO DISCUSS TRAVEL BAN

Press Release | 27 April 2021

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday clarified that the B.1.617 variant or the variant first detected in India is classified as a variant under investigation (VUI) and not a variant of concern (VOC), based on the technical definitions set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The clarification was made in response to the misleading headline “Duque: No travel ban for now as India variant not yet one 'of concern'” falsely conveying that a travel ban has not been imposed because the Secretary of Health does not consider the variant as a matter of utmost importance.

The two statements—“There is no travel ban yet,” and “The B.1.1617 is not a variant of concern”—were made in response to two different questions. The Secretary has clarified in the interview that while existing travel restrictions for foreigners have been in place since the beginning of the ECQ for NCR+ Bubble, the travel restrictions for Returning Overseas Filipinos and Overseas Filipino Workers are yet to be discussed in the IATF.

Meanwhile, when asked about the characteristics of the variant, the Secretary accurately stated that the B.1.617 has not satisfied the WHO criteria for it to be classified as a “variant of concern.”

Despite this, the DOH continues to monitor the variant, along with all other variants, to ensure immediate and appropriate response.