DOH: No new COVID-19 variant still in PH, genome sequencing results for OFW’s close contacts out this week

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The Health Department has refuted claims that a new coronavirus variant has already been detected in the Philippines, as it continued to appeal to netizens to stop spreading unverified information on the matter. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 12)— The Health Department has refuted claims that a new coronavirus variant has already been detected in the Philippines, as it continued to appeal to netizens to stop spreading unverified information on the matter.

Gusto naming ipaliwanag na wala pa tayong nade-detect na UK or any variant at all here in the country,” Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Tuesday in response to social media posts about the supposed presence of the variant in Metro Manila.

Hindi po ‘yan totoo, and please, do not add to the fear of the public by issuing this kind of statement,” she added.

[Translation: We would like to explain that we have not yet detected the UK or any variant at all here in the country. Those are not true, and please, do not add to the fear of the public by issuing this kind of statement.]

Vergeire reiterated that the new variants can only be detected through genome sequencing, which can only be carried out by the Philippine Genome Center, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health. The over 300 specimens earlier processed for sequencing also gave no signs of any new variant, she added.

Meanwhile, the Health official also noted that the sequencing results of the close contacts of the Filipina domestic helper in Hong Kong earlier diagnosed with the new variant are expected to be released within the week.

“All of them were subjected to RT-PCR and genome sequencing. So we will know all of the results maybe by Wednesday or Thursday,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire added that the OFW, a 30-year-old woman from Cagayan province, is in stable condition. Relatives who were exposed to her had tested negative for the virus through antigen and antibody tests and remain under quarantine, governor Manuel Mamba said over the weekend.

DOH observing 4 variants

Vergeire also noted that the agency is observing global developments on four reported COVID-19 variants, including one supposedly detected in Nigeria.

“There are already three that has sufficient evidence already from the different countries,” Vergeire said, referring to the ones found in UK, South Africa, and Sabah.

“And then there’s this another variant that they had been saying, this Nigerian variant, although there is not much evidence yet for this. But we are looking at these four variants.”

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said authorities are monitoring a possible new variant of the coronavirus emerging in Nigeria, as reported by news network Al Jazeera in December. Africa CDC head John Nkengasong, however, noted that more analysis is needed.

The Philippines earlier imposed restrictions to travelers from nations with reported cases of the new variant from the UK, and of the mutation in South Africa. Medical experts, citing initial studies, have warned that these variants can potentially be more contagious.