MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is looking to recommend stricter border control to keep out the potentially more contagious Lambda COVID-19 variant.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines has yet to detect any case of the Lambda variant but he stressed that stricter border control may be necessary to prevent the variant from entering the country.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Lambda variant (C.37) was first detected in Peru in December 2020. Its presence has so far been reported in more than 30 countries.
“Sa ngayon po, ito ay napag alaman kumakalat na sa bansang Peru at sa 35 iba pang Latin American countries. Sa ngayon po, batay sa submission ng ating Philippine Genome Center, wala pa, wala pa po tayong natukoy o na-diskubre na C.37 variant,” Duque said.
The Health Ministry of Malaysia earlier reported that the Lambda variant is feared to be “more infectious” than the Delta variant.
But the WHO said there is still not enough information to say that the Lambda mutation is more contagious than other identified COVID-19 variants.
The Lambda variant is still considered a variant of interest (VOI) as it shares similar attributes to the highly transmissible Delta variant that first emerged in India.
Variants under VOI are different from those classified as variants of concern (VOC).
According to the WHO, a variant is classified as a VOC if there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.
Variants classified as VOC include Alpha (first reported in the United Kingdom), Beta (South Africa), Gamma (Brazil), and Delta (India).
“Hindi pa siya kinikilala ng WHO bilang variant of concern. Sa kasalukuyan, siya po ay isang Variant of Interest… Kinakailngan po talaga bantayan natin ito dahil baka biglang maging Variant of Concern,” Duque said.
“So ano ang gagawin natin? Patuloy na paigtingin ang ating border control para makasiguro na hindi ito makalusot mula sa ating mga ROFs or OFWs,” he added.
The DOH also urged the public to continue observing health protocols and get vaccinated against coronavirus disease as it offers protection against severe forms of COVID-19.