No longer variant of interest: WHO reclassifies P.3 variant first found in Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2021   •   592

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reclassified the coronavirus variant that was first detected in the Philippines.

On its website, the WHO has removed Theta or P.3 variant from the list of variants of interest (VOI) and designated it into “alerts for further monitoring” after cases of the said variant have declined.

“A previously designated Variant of Interest (VOI) or Variant of Concern (VOC) which has conclusively demonstrated to no longer pose a major added risk to global public health compared to other circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, can be reclassified,” the WHO said.

“This is undertaken through a critical expert assessment, in collaboration with Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution, of several criteria, such as the observed incidence/relative prevalence of variant detections among sequenced samples over time and between geographical locations, the presence / absence of other risk factors, and any ongoing impact on control measures,” it added.

The WHO, however, noted that former variants of interest or variants of concern may be monitored for an extended period, and will maintain their assigned WHO label until further notice.

“It is expected that our understanding of the impacts of these variants may fast evolve, and designated Alerts for Further Monitoring may be readily added/removed; therefore, WHO labels will not be assigned at this time,” it said.

Aside from Theta, former VOIs were Epsilon (B.1.427/B.1.429), and Zeta (P.2).

COVID-19 variants currently listed under variants of interest are Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda.

Eta was first documented in December 2020 in multiple countries, Iota first emerged in the United States in November 2020, Kappa in India around October, and Lambda in Peru in December.

Variants classified as VOC include Alpha (first reported in the United Kingdom), Beta (South Africa), Gamma (Brazil), and Delta (India).


Positive COVID-19 antigen test results now included in case count – IATF

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The number of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 through rapid antigen tests will now be included in the Philippines’ case count, Malacañang said Friday.

In a televised briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) reached the decision during their meeting on Thursday in an aim to improve the reporting of COVID-19 cases.

“’Yan po ang ating objective para mas maging mabuti yung picture natin kung ilan ang total cases natin,” Roque said.

He, however, clarified that these tests will be subjected to confirmatory tests.

The use of antigen test is mostly effective for people who already manifested symptoms within the first five days of their onset as the viral load of the patient is at the highest during this time.

In line with this, the IATF directed the Department of Health NCR Center for Health Development to monitor and facilitate registration of facilities using rapid antigen kits.

They must also ensure that antigen line tests are collected and consolidated from health facilities, localities, as well as temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.

“Kaugnay nito, ang Department of Health NCR Center for Health Development ay inatasang mag-facilitate ng registration ng facilities na gumagamit ng rapid antigen kits,” he said.

“Augmentation of disease surveillance surveillance staff and encoders are considered to ensure that line lists are generated and submitted on a daily basis,” he added.

As of Sept. 23, the Philippines has 165,780 active COVID-19 cases based on DOH data.

Duterte asks PNP, AFP to deploy medical personnel to hospitals needing more staff

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prepare for the deployment of their medical personnel to hospitals that are in need of additional manpower.

“Kung wala nang iba, ‘yung mga nurses sa pulis marami yan, pati sa medical corps ng army. I have to use a little of my influence sa kanila to convince them,” Duterte said in a taped public address aired late Wednesday.

“Please place your human resources on ready, on deck because talagang alam mo yun lang madali kong maasahan,” he added.

Duterte issued the statement after receiving reports that a lot of medical personnel, particularly in St. Luke’s Medical Center were unable to go on duty due to COVID-19 infection.

The AFP said it has started deploying a number of its personnel to some hospitals in Metro Manila as it continues look for more nurses from its ranks.

The PNP, for its part, said it is currently accounting the number of its medical teams that could be deployed to assist medical workers amid rising cases of COVID-19.

Lapid files bill seeking paid quarantine leave benefits for qualified workers

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—A bill seeking paid quarantine leave benefits for qualified workers in the public and private sector has been filed in the Senate.

The proposed measure, filed by Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid, will provide  for 28 paid quarantine leave benefits per year equivalent to the daily wage rate of affected workers in the public and private sectors.

The grant of paid quarantine leave is applicable to any person who, while performing tasks as required for his/her employment whether in the public or private sector, and regardless of employment status, shall be exposed to or be infected with a highly contagious diseases or dangerous chemical which would require quarantine for a certain period of time.

The qualified worker shall be entitled to paid leave equivalent to his/her daily wage rate during the entire period of his/her quarantine; provided, that the quarantine period shall not exceed 28 days for any given year.

Lapid said that providing a separate benefit for quarantine leave would help workers who risk getting infected, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ang masaklap para sa ating mga masisipag at matatapang na manggagawa, oras na tamaan sila ng sakit gaya na lamang ng COVID-19, hindi lamang sila gagastos sa pagpapa-ospital at pagbili ng gamot, ang ilan pa sa kanila ay walang sweldong matatanggap o nauubos ang leave dahil kanilang mag-quarantine,” the senator said in a statement.

Based on the proposed bill, the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), as applicable, shall reimburse the employer for the payment of its employee’s paid quarantine leaves, provided, that the employer shall shoulder the payment of such quarantine leaves.

In case an employer refuses to grant the paid quarantine leave benefit, they shall be punished by a fine of not less than P30,000.00 but not more than P200,000.00. AAC


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