New coronavirus strain might have reached the country, expert says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 6) – A local infectious diseases expert has warned the new strain of COVID-19 might have reached the country.

Dr. Edsel Salvaña noted the new mutation of coronavirus may have contributed to what he called as “definite increase” of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.

“Based on the behavior of the increase in cases, I would say it’s probably here in the Philippines. We’ve seen it in Taiwan, in Australia, and in Japan as well,” Salvaña told CNN Philippines’ Rico Hizon on Monday.

Last week, a global study published in the scientific journal Cell revealed a new form of the coronavirus has spread from Europe to the US.

READ: New form of coronavirus spreads faster, but doesn't make people sicker, new study says

The medical research highlighted the new mutation, named G614, affects the spike protein — the structure the virus uses to get into the cells it infects.

The newly discovered coronavirus strain makes the virus more infectious but does not seem to make people any sicker, the researchers found out

Salvaña, however, clarified that medical experts in the country have yet to do a research if the new coronavirus strain has in fact entered the country. He added the Philippine Genome Center only holds a coronavirus sequence from March.

Salvaña explained that it will only take 48 to 72 hours to sequence a virus, to validate if indeed the new coronavirus strain entered the country already.

The infectious diseases expert also attributed the rise of COVID-19 cases in the country to the increased mass testing efforts of the government, backlogs in testing, and the gradual reopening of the country’s economy.

“We have to think about the fact that more infectious virus can be driving this as well. Because in terms of what’s happening in the rest of the world, it would be strange if it wasn’t happening here as well,” said Salvaña.

Salvaña advised the public to always wear face masks and maintain physical distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“We all have to work together so that we can decrease the number of cases. This virus is out there, it’s now more infectious, and we really gonna see more cases,” he stressed.

The Department of Health reported today 2,099 new COVID-19 infections in the country, hiking the total number of confirmed cases to 46,333.

Last Sunday, health officials recorded the country's highest single-day increase in infections at 2,434. The DOH has attributed the surge to the increased contact among the population, as the Philippines continues to ease community quarantine restrictions.

In addition, the COVID-19 claimed 1,303 lives in the country and some 12,185 individuals recovered from the virus.