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DOH confirms that COVID-19 B.1.617 variant is in the Philippines

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the first cases in the country with the B.1.617 are both male Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). One is a 37-year-old man from Oman and the other is a 38-year-old patient from UAE.

The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the detection of at least two cases of India‘s COVID-19 variant in the Philippines, as announced, the day after the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the variant as a global level concern.

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the first cases in the country with the B.1.617 are both male Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). One is a 37-year-old man from Oman and the other is a 38-year-old patient from UAE.

Though tested positive for the variant, Epidemiology Bureau Director Althea De Guzman stated that both cases have already recovered and are asymptomatic.

“Yung ating dalawang kaso have been filed as recovered. They are currently asymptomatic.”

One of the two men arrived in the Philippines on April 10 and recovered from the virus on April 26. Another arrived on April 19 and recovered on April 6. Both had no travel history from India.

The first patient is currently in Soccksargen while the other is in Bicol. The plane passengers beside the individuals have tested negative for the virus.

“Inaalam din natin kung sila ay naka-kumpleto na ng quarantine,” De Guzman updated.

The DOH has yet to confirm if any of the other inbound travelers who tested positive earlier this month are carriers of the India variant.

Officials have yet to announce any adjustments regarding travel and health protocols after the entry of the reportedly stronger variant.

“Yung duration of infectiousness, there is no evidence that it lasts longer than the other variants,” said Edsel Salvana who is a member of DOH’s Technical Advisory Group.

“This underlines the fact that we have to further protect our borders. It is very important that we have an idea on how fast these are coming and which countries ang kailangan natin mag-ingat.”

According to WHO’s Maria Van Kerkhove, the B.1.617 variant seemed to be transmitting quickly than the other reported variants of COVID-19.

“There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of the B.1.617.”

As of writing, the Philippines’ travel ban from those coming from India will last until May 19. The travel restriction also extends to India’s neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

The India variant was cited as “double mutant” as two notable mutations were present in the spike protein of the virus. It makes the virus enter the human body easier and multiply faster. B.1.617’s mutations include E484Q and L452R.

On the other hand, India now accounts for 1 in every 3 reported COVID-related deaths around the world, according to a Reuters tally.

“As of now it is very difficult for us to say where these dead bodies have come from,” said MP Singh, the top government official in Ghazipur district in Uttar Pradesh after bodies were reportedly washing up on the banks of Ganges.


The country’s death and cremations from COVID reached around 4,000 people a day and its cases reached a total number of 23 million.

Written by J M

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