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).