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DOH studying link between South African variant, COVID-19 spike in Pasay

The Department of Health (DOH) is analyzing the link between the more transmissible South African coronavirus variant and the spike in COVID-19 cases in Pasay City, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Tuesday.

“The probability is always there because there are variants detected and the cases are rising, but we need to do a thorough analysis for us to be able to really confirm and say that the variants are the cause of this increase in cases,” she said in a briefing.

Vergeire said that while variants can hasten transmission, other factors such as poor compliance to health protocols and inter-zonal mobility also cause the spread of COVID-19.

The DOH reported earlier on Tuesday that six COVID-19 cases, three of whom are Pasay residents, were found to have the South African variant.

Authorities have identified a link between two of the South African variant cases in the city.

Last week, the DOH said more samples for genome sequencing would be collected in Pasay after it saw an uptick in COVID-19 infections.

Immune escape

Vergeire also stressed that the South African variant needs to be contained quickly because it can cause reduced vaccine efficacy.

She explained that the variant has a mutation that leads to “immune escape.”

“Instead na your antibodies will be working for you against the specific disease, hindi niya magagawa ‘yun because of the effect of this variant, kaya sinasabi nila na makakabawas sa efficacy ng isang bakuna,” she said.

“Kaya nga gusto natin, as much as possible, fast containment tayo nitong variant na ito so that we can prevent it to further spread.”

Vergeire also said the government will still need to discuss any travel restrictions related to the detection of the South African variant.

“Hindi po puwedeng sa bawat dagok o sa bawat challenge na we are going to face, we will restrict lagi. Hindi lang po 'yan ang strategy to respond to this pandemic. Marami pa po tayong puwedeng gawin,” she said.

Last month, Pfizer-BioNTech said their COVID-19 vaccine works against both UK and South African variants. The AstraZeneca jab, however, is less effective against the South Africa variant.

The Philippines began its vaccination campaign on Monday with the rollout of China’s Sinovac vaccine.—AOL, GMA News