DOH: More cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2021   •   119

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday said it has detected more cases of covid-19 variants in the country.

This was based on the latest whole-genome sequencing report of the Philippine Genome Center and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH).

The DOH said that from the 744 samples sequenced last week, additional 289 B.1.1.7 variant cases (United Kingdom), 380 B.1.351 (South Africa) variant cases, and 9 P.3 (Philippines) variant cases were detected.

Of the new B.1.1.7 variant cases, 48 are Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs), 185 are local cases, while 56 cases are still being verified.

Based on the case line list, 3 cases remain active while 2 have died and 284 have recovered, the DOH said.

Of the 380 new B.1.351 variant cases, 107 cases are ROFs, 196 are local cases, and 77 cases are still under verification. The DOH said that based on the case line list, one case is still active and 379 cases have been tagged as recovered.

Out of the nine new P.3 variant cases, 3 are ROFs, 4 are local cases, and 2 cases are being verified if they are local or ROF cases. Based on the case line list, all 9 cases have recovered, the agency said.

“B.1.351 is the most common variant among the samples sequenced with assigned lineages, contrary to reports that it is now the dominant variant in the country,” the DOH said in a statement.

It also reiterated that the P.3 variant, which was first reported in the Philippines, is still not identified as a variant of concern since current data is insufficient to determine whether the variant will have significant public health implications.

The DOH said that a total of 7,167 samples have been sequenced so far, and out of those with assigned lineages, 18.2% tested positive for B.1.351, 16.0% had B.1.1.7, 2.7% were found with the P.3, while 0.03% had the P.1 variant.

To complement the intensified vaccination activities, the DOH calls on the public to strictly and consistently adhere to the minimum public health standards to minimize the risk of exposure and infection.

Philippine GDP declines by 4.2% in first quarter of 2021 – PSA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine economy shrank by more than expected in the first quarter of the year, according to government data released on Tuesday, as prolonged community quarantines due to the pandemic hamper reopening efforts.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell -4.2 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier.

This is the fifth consecutive quarter that the country has posted negative GDP growth due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The PSA said the main contributors to the decline were Construction (-24.2 percent), other Services, (-38.0 percent); and Real Estate and Ownership of Dwellings (-13.2 percent).

Among the major economic sectors, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (AFF) declined by -1.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021. Likewise, Services and Industry contracted by -4.4 percent and -4.7 percent, respectively during the period, the PSA noted.

“On the demand side, Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) declined by -4.8 percent, along with the following items: Gross Capital Formation (GCF), -18.3 percent; Exports, -9.0 percent; and Imports, -8.3 percent,” the agency said.

The net primary income (NPI) from the rest of the world continued to decline by -75.8 percent, bringing the Gross National Income (GNI) to drop by -10.9 percent during the period, it added.

On the other hand, the PSA said that government final consumption expenditure (GFCE) grew by 16.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021.

Contributors to growth were led by financial and insurance activities (5.2 percent), public administration and defense, compulsory social activities (7.5 percent), and human health and social work activities (11.7 percent).

Other industries that managed to grow during the period were information and communication, 6.3 percent; manufacturing, 0.5 percent; and electricity, steam, water, and waste management, 1.9 percent, the PSA said.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said the aversion to risk for most of 2020 has placed the country in a long period of quarantine, and that this came at a huge cost to the economy and the people.

It, however, observed some improvements as the rate of contraction has slowed, and that the country has time to catch up with on its growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent despite the pandemic-induced quarantine restrictions.

Evaluation of EUA application for Sinopharm vax may be completed in less than 21 days – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The evaluation process for the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine will not take long before it can be granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday.

FDA director-general Eric Domingo said the Sinopharm vaccine has already been included in the emergency use listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and access to its documents, including inspection reports from the WHO will be faster.

“Useful yung kanyang Emergency Use Listing sa WHO kasi before this, wala pa siyang EUA from a stringent regulatory authority katulad ng mga USFDA ganyan or Europe, Japan… hindi pa siya listed sa mga iyon. Pero yung WHO na emergency use listing that’s equivalent to a stringent regulatory authority,” he said.

“Ang maganda sa WHO kasi very transparent ang documents nyan. Available din siya sa FDA. Lahat ng ni-review nila, maaari naming ma-access kaya hindi tayo masyado mahihirapan sa paghingi ng information,” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it has started the process of applying for EUA, pending documents about the vaccine product.

The FDA said the process may take less than 21 days once the DOH completes the application process.

“Kapag ganyan na merong WHO EUL, mas mapapabilis iyan. Nakakaya natin iyan usually less than 21 days,” Domingo said.

The FDA also echoed the DOH’s earlier statement that there are no irregularities with the government’s move to file an EUA for a Chinese-made vaccine since they also applied for the EUA of other COVID-19 vaccine brands, such as Sinovac, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer, in order for these vaccines to be delivered to the country.

“Talagang nasa batas and it’s a worldwide practice,” he said. “Based on WHO guidelines, posible naman na gobyerno gusto bumili ng bakuna na walang local manufacturer or representative dito. In those cases, the government itself can get EUA.”

“Hindi naman conflict yun dahil ang EUA ay hindi naman product registration o marketing authorization lang, talagang for emergency use lang ang mga bakuna,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Palace welcomes WHO’s emergency use listing for Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to approve Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use listing (EUL).

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this development will strengthen the country’s vaccine portfolio.

“We welcome the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization for Sinopharm. This development would strengthen our diversified vaccine portfolio as we continue to work on improving access to safe and effective vaccines, including Sinopharm,” Roque said.

A WHO emergency listing means that a product’s safety and efficacy has been rigorously evaluated. It will also allow the product to be included in the COVAX facility for faster global roll out.

The COVAX facility led by the WHO is a global program that seeks to provide vaccine supply mainly for poor countries.

The emergency use listing will also allow countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The Philippines has so far received more than 7.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and more are expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

“With the arrival of the bulk of our vaccine orders in the coming months, we are confident that we would be able to speed up our coronavirus vaccination program,” Roque said.

The Department of Health earlier said the emergency use authorization (EUA) application for Sinopharm vaccine is now being processed.

The Food and Drug Administration said the application’s evaluation will not take long as the product is already under the WHO emergency use listing.

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