The World Health Organization (WHO) has downgraded the classification of P.3, a coronavirus variant first detected in the Philippines, from a variant of interest (VOI) to an “alert for further monitoring.”
The WHO website indicates that P.3 was categorized as a VOI on March 24 this year but was downgraded on July 6.
“The reason for this is its reported detection has decreased over time,” National Institutes of Health executive director Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-de la Paz explained in a Department of Health forum.
De la Paz said only 269 P.3 sequences from 14 countries had been uploaded to a global database as of July 6, the majority of which came from Central Visayas. The Philippines has so far reported 166 P.3 variant cases.
In February this year, health authorities in Region 7 reported the detection of two coronavirus mutations of concern that would later become the P.3 variant.
The WHO renamed P.3 into "Theta" last month but the variant is no longer identified as such following its reclassification.
De la Paz said the variant carries mutations linked to increased transmissibility and increased resistance to neutralizing antibodies.
“There have only been sporadic detections or small clusters of cases that have been reported globally, justifying its classification,” she said.
The WHO made clear, however, that variants may be reclassified again as they evolve. National authorities also have the option to designate variants as one of local interest or concern.
De la Paz said local experts have yet to convene and declare P.3 a variant of local interest.
“I think this is something that we need to think about very well and to closely monitor before we make such forms of declaration,” she said.
The DOH also assured the public that authorities will continue to monitor and report P.3 variant cases despite its reclassification.
The Philippines has tallied over 1.48 million COVID-19 cases with 1.40 million recoveries and 26,015 deaths as of Monday afternoon. —KBK, GMA News