Genome Center: Spread of highly transmissible variants in homes among factors in COVID-19 case surge in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021   •   1505

MANILA, Philippines – The spread of highly transmissible variants of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) through homes contributes to the surge of infections in the country, the Philippine Genome Center said Tuesday.

Dr. Cynthia Saloma, Executive Director of the Philippine Genome Center, said there are a lot of factors contributing to the spike in COVID-19 infections but it is mainly due to “increased complacency” among Filipinos following the arrival and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Aside from complacency, the emergence of COVID-19 variants that is easily transmitted, especially among family members, is also another factor for the high infection rate.

“There is this increased complacency probably the enthusiasm in the rollout of the vaccine. And against that backdrop is the presence of these highly transmissible viruses which we believe is really, really spreading through our homes,” Saloma said during a Laging Handa public briefing.

Among the COVID-19 variants reported to have been detected in the country are the ones first reported in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), Brazil (P1), and the variant found in Central Visayas (P.3).

“So, nakita naman ninyo yung kanyang virus mutations naitala na nagmutate siya saka maganda yung kapit niya doon sa ating ACE2 receptor kaya kung in the home setting, madali talaga siyang mag-spread kasi siyempre kumakain tayo sabay-sabay di ba?” Saloma said.

“Because of its ability to attach very well or efficiently into the receptor so ‘yan and together with, of course, ‘yung complacency ng mga tao, nag-combine siya na tumaas ‘yung ating mga cases,” she added.

Saloma reported that the Philippine Genome Center has so far sequenced 4,751 COVID-19 samples nationwide. Of this number, 4,050 were found to have lineage of new variants.

The B.1.1.7 variant was found in 237 cases, the B.1.1.351 was found in 163 samples, and P1 was found in one case. The P.3 variant, which is still being investigated, was found in 104 samples.

Of the sequence samples, Saloma said the COVID-19 variants of concern only make up 9.9 percent of samples.

“Sa Pilipinas, naitala na natin dati pa na ang pinakamarami sa na-sequence natin are not really the variants of concern. Ito ‘yung mga sinasabing Hong Kong at UAE variants. Ito talaga ‘yung marami sa ating bansa,” she said.

“Kung titingnan natin, sa kabuuan, ‘yung mga may lineages na assignment, parang mga 9.9% ‘yung mga variants of concern na naitala natin sa buong Pilipinas simula noong nag-genomic biosurveillance nitong Enero,” she added.

The Philippines is currently seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, prompting the national government to revert Metro Manila under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), along with four nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna.

The ECQ period is until April 11.

The World Health Organization earlier said that the spike in coronavirus infections in the Philippines and other countries is attributed to ‘multiple factors’ including the high transmissibility of new variants, gradual reduction in compliance with health protocols due to pandemic fatigue, and optimism in vaccination rollout.

NCR to remain under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 until Dec. 15

Maris Federez   •   November 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) approved on Monday (November 29) the recommendation to still place the National Capital Region under COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

In an advisory released Monday night, acting presidential spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that the following areas have also been placed under Alert Level 2:

  • Cordillera Administrative Region: Benguet, Abra, Kalinga, Baguio City, Mountain Province, and Ifugao;
  • Region I: Dagupan City, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, and Pangasinan;
  • Region II: Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and City of Santiago;
  • Region III: Angeles City, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Olongapo City, Pampanga, Zambales, and Tarlac;
  • Region IV-A: Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, and Lucena City;
  • Region IV-B: Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Puerto Princesa City, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan;
  • Region V: Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Masbate, and Naga City;
  • Region VI: Aklan, Antique, Bacolod City, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, Iloilo City, and Negros Occidental;
  • Region VII: Bohol, Cebu, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor;
  • Region VIII: Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Ormoc City, Southern Leyte, Tacloban City, and Western Samar;
  • Region IX: City of Isabela, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay;
  • Region X: Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro City, Camiguin, Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, and Misamis Oriental;
  • Region XI: Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, and Davao Oriental;
  • Region XII: General Santos City, North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat;
  • Region XIII (Caraga) Butuan City, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands, and Agusan del Norte; and
  • The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: Basilan, Cotabato City, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao.

The province of Apayao, however, shall be placed under Alert Level 3.

Nograles added that the said Alert Level shall be effective from December 1 to 15, 2021.

Border checkpoints, muling ipatutupad sakaling itaas ang alert level sa Metro Manila – PNP

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Handa ang Philippine National Police (PNP) na muling ipatupad ang border checkpoints sakaling itaas ang alert level sa Metro Manila kasunod ng banta ng Omicrcon COVID-19 variant.

Ayon kay PNP chief Police General Dionardo Carlos, ilalagay ang checkpoins papasok at palabas ng Metro Manila upang malimitahan ang galaw ng publiko at mapigilan ang posibleng pagkalat ng bagong variant.

“As long as it will be of help maprevent natin ang variant natin ito, Kasama po kami ng buong gobyerno para pangalagaan po ang ating mamamayan para hindi na kumalat itong ating hindi nakikitang kalaban na COVID-19 virus,” ani Carlos.

Handa rin aniya ang PNP na muling ipatupad ang paggamit ng face shield kung ipag-uutos ito ng Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

“We will always abide with the IATF kung yan ay makatutulong para maiwasan ang pagkalat ng COVID-19 virus, we will leave it up to the experts. Kaya nga po palagi kaming nagbabantay sa lumalabas na resolusyon ng IATF at nandyan naman po yan e, ang aming mga face shield ay inilagay lang muna namin sa tabi pero andyan pa din po anytime,” ani Carlos.

Sa kasalukuyan ay nasa Alert Level 2 ang Metro Manila sa gitna na rin ng patuloy na pagbaba ng COVID-19 infections.

Tiniyak rin ng PNP na paiigtingin ng Aviation Security Group sa pagbabantay sa mga paliparan sa bansa sakaling muling ipagbawal ang pagbiyahe ng mga eroplano sa iba’t ibang lugar.

Pina-alalahanan rin ni Carlos ang mga pulis na mag-doble ingat upang huwag mahawa ng viral respiratory disease. (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

PH tracing passengers who arrived from countries with Omicron cases – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said it has started tracing passengers who arrived in the country from areas with local cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant.

DOH Epidemiology director, Dr. Alethea de Guzman said this is to assess them to ensure that they are not infected with the new coronavirus variant.

“Iyong mga galing sa banned countries na naunang nag-arrive ay ngayon ay tinetrace ng ating BOQ, RESUs and DILG para ma-assess sila at ma-test,” she said.

The move is in compliance to the directive of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) for The Bureau of Quarantine and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) with the local government units (LGUs) to identify and locate passengers who arrived within 14 days prior to November 29, 2021, from countries classified as Red.

This is to require them to complete quarantine under a home quarantine set-up for 14 days from date of arrival and undergo RT-PCR if symptoms develop.

The Philippine government has recently expanded the Red List to include Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy. This is in addition to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique that were earlier placed in the Red List due to the threat of Omicron, which was first detected in the region.

The Red List, which is effective from November 28 until December 15, means that travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, coming from or who have been to the Red List areas within the last 14 days prior to their arrival will not be allowed to enter the Philippines.

Only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation and Bayanihan flights may be allowed entry. However, they will be subject to the prevailing entry, testing, and quarantine protocols for Red List territories.

De Guzman said authorities are now reviewing the existing protocols to address the new variant.

“Dahil nga sa pag-deklara ng Omicron as a variant of concern at ito namang Omicron na ito ay papasok hindi galing sa ating, hindi siya lalabas intransically sa Philippines pero malamang manggaling sa ibang bansa, kailangan talaga nating maglagay ng measures para ma-prevent natin, ma-delay natin as long as possible ang pagpasok ng Omicron sa ating bansa,” she said.

The Philippines has not yet recorded any case of Omicron variant based on the ongoing genome sequencing process.

The country has seen a downward trend of coronavirus infections in the past weeks.

On Monday, the Philippines logged 665 fresh COVID-19 cases, pushing the country’s total caseload to 2,832,375. This is the lowest since July 14, 2020 with 634 cases.

The country remains at low-risk classification for COVID-19.

But the DOH warned that this could spike if Omicron variant slips through the country’s borders.

The department said it has recommended to LGUs to shift back to using RT-PCR tests, instead of antigen tests to detect the presence of the Omicron variant.

“There are allegedly some tests that cannot detect kasi meron lang specific na mutations unique to Omicron na pwede lang makita ng certain RT- PCR kits,” De Guzman said.

“Ang ating mga positive samples naman ay mapapadala natin sa ating UP-Phil Genome Center at doon natin makikita kung sila ay may Omicron… Much like iyong mga may kaso ng Alpha, Beta and Delta ,kung mayroon ka ring Omicron walang pagbabago sa magiging management sa inyo ng doktor. Walang dagdag na gamot, bagong treatment. Pareho pa rin ang magiging treatment sa kanila,” she added.

De Guzman also noted that there is no clear evidence yet to say whether Omicron variant causes severe infection or if it more transmissible than other variants of concern.

“Sa ngayon, base sa mga studies, hindi natin nakikita na mas magiging apektado ang isang age group, hindi rin natin nakikita na mas magiging severe ang disease, o mas magiging mataas ang tiyansa ng pagkamatay sa mga may kaso na may Omicron variant,” she said.

“Pero dahil nakakita nga tayo ng maraming mutations dito sa variant na ito kaya itinataas natin ang pagbabantay ang ating response,” she added.

The DOH also reminded the public to take extra care as preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron for people who have previously had COVID-19, as compared to other variants of concern.

Clusters of cases in a certain area should also be monitored and submitted for sequencing to ensure that there are no new virus mutations.

The World Health Organization classified Omicron as a variant of concern last week. Several countries imposed travel restrictions amid increased detection in nations across the world.

REACH US

The Philippine Broadcast Hub

UNTV, 915 Barangay Philam,

EDSA, Quezon City M.M. 1104

(+632) 8396-8688 (Tel)

info@untv-newsandrescue.com (General inquiries)

ABOUT UNTV

UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.