Quezon City reports Brazil coronavirus variant but DOH clarifies


Quezon City officials on Wednesday said a case of "Brazil variant" of coronavirus has been reported in the city, but the Department of Health (DOH) quickly issued a clarification.

"Wala pa po tayo Brazilian variant. The Brazilian lineage must have been misinterpreted as a Brazilian variant," DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a text message to Super Radyo dzBB's Manny Vargas.

At a press briefing, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said one COVID-19 case in the city was found to have the Brazil lineage of the coronavirus.

According to Quezon City data, there are 18 cases of various coronavirus variants in the city -- 13 cases of the UK variant, four South Africa variant, and one "Brazil variant."

"Ang tingin ko talaga malaki ang kinalaman ng presence ng variants na ito sa pagkalat ng sakit na ito," Belmonte said.

Quezon City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit later on retracted its statement regarding the Brazil variant, according to Super Radyo dzBB's Allan Gatus.

"We are getting clarification from DOH. Apparently it's not a Brazilian variant," said Dr. Rolly Cruz, unit head, in a text message to Gatus.

The DOH earlier explained that the B.1.1.28 or the Brazil lineage is different from P.1 or the Brazil variant of concern (VOC).

“There are several variants from Brazil, and the VOC is P.1 which we have not detected in the samples we've sequenced,” the DOH told reporters on Wednesday.

The Philippines has so far logged 118 United Kingdom variant cases, 58 South Africa variant cases, and 85 COVID-19 cases with two mutations of concern. 

The Philippine Genome Center subjects hundreds of samples to genome sequencing every week to detect new variants. 

Treat each case as variant

According to Belmonte, it takes about 10 days for the Quezon City government to find out whether a sample sent to the Philippine Genome Center is a variant.


Thus, the Quezon City government will be treating each COVID-19 case as a variant.

"'Yung mindset na gusto naming ampunin dito sa lungsod Quezon is the assumption that every case now is a variant. Hindi na po natin sasabihin 'Hintayin natin ang Genome Center para sabihin kung variant.' We now treat every case we find as a variant," Belmonte said.

Quezon City has reported 2,100 new active COVID-19 cases as of 8 p.m. of March 9, bringing the total number of cases in the city to 34,591.
There are also 31,663 recovered cases and 858 deaths in the city.

Situation 'serious' in QC

As of March 8, the Quezon City General Hospital is already at full capacity for their COVID-19 ward, with 1,467 total admissions, and the North District Hospital is at full capacity with 1,212 total admissions.

"I would like to stress na kahit na hindi pa masyadong nagbabanggit ang ating national government na serious ang situation, tingin ko serious na po ang situation namin dito sa Quezon City," Belmonte said.

"Medyo alarming na po, medyo disturbing na po kasi nakikita po natin na 'yung positivity rate dito sa Quezon City is at 9.3%," Belmonte said, adding that the city's reproduction number is at 1.73 with 2,500 average number of tests per day.

Belmonte said as of Wednesday, there are now 14 areas under lockdown in their city, with the latest being parts of Barangay Central and Barangay Krus na Ligas.

Quarantine classifications 'obsolete'

For Belmonte, quarantine classifications are already "obsolete" and no longer helpful.

"These different classifications for me are already obsolete. As you can see when we say 'GCQ,' we are not really adhering to GCQ in its purest form, ganon din sa 'MGCQ.' I find these classifications not very helpful anymore," she said.

"I would prefer to just use the word restrictions," she added, pointing out that they have already consulted barangays as to what kind of "stricter restrictions" should be implemented in their jurisdictions.

Belmonte said they are considering whether to restrict allowed capacity for restaurants, hotels and churches.

"It's safe to say that the city government is considering restrictions that will also be guided by our current data so that we can make restrictions in the right places," she said. —KBK, GMA News