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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Philippines Reports First Cases of the South African Variant of COVID-19

The Department of Health (DOH) in the Philippines on March 2 has reported six cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa.

According to a statement from the DOH, the Philippine Genome Center detected the South African variant known as B.1.351 in the genome samples collected from COVID-19 patients between Jan. 27 and Feb. 13.

DOH said that three of the cases were from Pasay City, two of which are currently being managed while the third has already recovered.

DOH further said that the fourth and fifth cases are from Filipinos who had returned from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar while the sixth case is still being determined if it is a local case or from a returning overseas Filipino.

The confirmation came a day after the Philippine government started its vaccination campaign using the vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac and donated by the Chinese government.

However, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario said during a virtual press briefing on March 2 that Sinovac has yet to release a study on the efficacy of its vaccine against the South African variant and that further studies are needed to determine how effective existing COVID-19 vaccines are against the variant.

“Despite the arrival of vaccines and the successful initial vaccination activities, the DOH emphasizes that adherence to minimum public health standards is still the best course of action to prevent community transmission and further virus mutations,” DOH said in a statement.

Data from DOH showed that the Philippines has recorded 2,037 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 578,384. The death toll is currently at 12,273.

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