Fast-spreading Lambda variant could be riskier for vulnerable sector – expert

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 6) — The Lambda coronavirus variant is raising concerns as it spreads across the world in a short period.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante on Tuesday said Lambda, also known as the C.37 variant first detected in Peru, is believed to be more transmissible, meaning it could drive surges in new infections and hospitalizations.

He said there is no scientific data yet if it could lead to more deaths, but added that it can be dangerous for elderly people or those with comorbidities.

"If you talk about a variant that is highly transmissible, then that will be responsible for surge of cases and hospitalizations. Most likely for those vulnerable, that can also be higher risk of mortality," he told CNN Philippines.

Solante, a member of the government's vaccine experts panel, said the Lambda variant may affect the efficacy rate and a person's reaction to antibody treatments. However, Solante stressed COVID-19 vaccines remain effective against all variants of concern and interest in preventing severe illness and death.

The World Health Organization in June said this variant has been associated with "substantive rates of community transmission." Despite being classified as a variant of interest only on June 15, it has spread to at least 29 territories, including the United Kingdom.

WHO said there is an increased prevalence of the variant in South American countries. In Peru — the country with the highest coronavirus mortality rate , authorities are reporting that 81% of COVID-19 cases sequenced since April were associated with the Lambda variant. In nearby Chile, the variant accounts for almost a third of new cases.

Health authorities have yet to report a case of the Lambda variant in the Philippines. A former adviser for the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Tuesday expressed hope the situation stays that way.

"Ito ay laganap sa South America at sa Latin America and we hope hindi makarating sa Asia," Dr. Tony Leachon, a physician and public health expert, told CNN Philippines' The Source.

[Translation: It is prevalent in South America and Latin America and we hope it (Lambda) does not reach Asia.]