Filipinos are battling four variants of COVID-19, including one that was first detected in the Philippines.
The Philippine variant is connected to over 90 cases in the Philippines that are being monitored.
This variant has the same lineage as the Brazilian strain of the novel coronavirus.
In addition to the Philippine and Brazilian variants, the Philippines is also fighting the British and South African variants, on top of novel coranavirus COVID-19.
There are currently 177 cases of the British variant and 90 cases of the South African variety in the Philippines.
Philippine health officials said it is not yet a “variant of concern”, though it manifests mutations that show it may be more transmissible than the original version of the coronavirus.
“We still lack evidence to determine if it will have significant public health implications,” the Department of Health said in a statement.
The DOH also reported on March 13 that it had detected the Brazilian variant in a Filipino who recently came back from Brazil.
The strain had swept through Manaus city in the Brazilian state of Amazonas in November last year.
Japan and the U.K. have found a variant of COVID-19 that was first detected in the Philippines.
The Philippines is again tightening quarantine curbs after seeing a surge in infections in recent weeks, driven in part by the new variants.
A curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. will be in place again starting on March 15 around Metro Manila, the capital region that is home to some 13 million.
Checkpoints are already being set up in some areas to impose the curfew. Border controls across the region’s 16 cities are also being readied.
The Philippines currently has the second-worst COVID-19 outbreak in Southeast Asia. Indonesia tops the list with over 610,000 cases and over 12,600 deaths.
The DOH reported 5,000 new COVID-19 infections on March 13. It’s the country’s largest single-day surge since August. About half of the total cases are in Metro Manila.
The Philippines experienced a particularly worrying spike in infections in August. It was when it recorded its highest number of daily cases totalling 6,598, and replaced Indonesia as the nation with the worst outbreak in Southeast Asia.
The Philippines has started inoculating its population of over 100 million.
The Philippine variant has also been reported in Japan and the U.K.
A man who arrived in Japan from the Philippines in February 2021 was infected with a new variant of the novel coronavirus, the Japanese health ministry said on March 12, in the first confirmation of such a case.
The variant is distinct from those first discovered in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
According to media reports, the Philippine variant is thought to pose a similar threat.
Also, the Philippine variant may be more resistant to neutralizing antibodies, including those gained through vaccination, like the South African and Brazilian variants appear to be.
According to the Japanese health ministry, the man in his 60s arrived at Narita Airport near Tokyo on February 25 and was asymptomatic.
The person tested positive after undergoing quarantine at the airport and is receiving treatment at a designated facility.
According to the Japanese ministry and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, infections with the variant in question have been found in the central part of the Philippines since late January.
The Philippines, which has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Southeast Asia, is battling a renewed surge as it ramps up a vaccination drive that started on March 1.
The Philippines has also confirmed domestic transmission of the new, highly contagious British variant of the coronavirus.
The world is scrambling to contain the spread of the British variant called B.1.1.7 variant, despite travel bans, new lockdowns and a tightening quarantine measures in dozens of countries, amid concerns it could not only be more transmissible, but deadlier.
The Philippine health ministry said the B.1.1.7 variant had spread among 12 people in Bontoc, a mountainous northern province, with 17 such cases in the country.
With nearly 515,000 coronavirus cases and more than 10,200 deaths, the Philippines is among the worst affected countries in Asia.
Outside Japan, two cases of the new coronavirus variant first reported in the Philippines have been found in England.
Public Health England (PHE) said it is investigating the new strain that has the same E484K spike protein found in the Manaus mutation, from Brazil.
One of the cases was linked to international travel and the other is still being investigated, said health officials. They did not confirm where either had been found.