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DOH confirms Brazil variant in COVID-19 case; more cases with UK, South Africa variants seen

The Department of Health, with the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health, on Saturday confirmed that one case of COVID-19 had the P.1 variant which was first detected in Brazil, in a returning overseas Filipino from Western Visayas.

It also said the UK variant was found in 59 new COVID-19 cases while the South Africa variant was found in 32 additional cases.

The DOH said 13 cases meanwhile were detected to have mutations of possible significance (E484K and N501Y mutations).

“These additional cases were among the tenth batch of 752 samples sequenced by the UP-PGC (University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center), with the majority of samples coming from NCR (National Capital Region), CALABARZON, and CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region),” the Health department said.

The DOH noted that the one case found with the P.1 (Brazil) variant is a returning overseas Filipino (ROF) from Brazil. 

“Additional information about the case is currently being investigated,” it said.

The P.1 variant was first detected in Japan by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) among four travelers from Brazil. 

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is evidence to suggest that transmissibility and the ability of antibodies generated through previous infection is affected by some mutations of this variant,” the DOH said.

However, the DOH emphasized that correct and consistent adherence to the minimum public health standards will prevent the transmission of these variants. 

Further, the DOH urged all local government units (LGUs) to facilitate and implement necessary interventions to mitigate the continued increase in the number of cases.

On the UK variant, the DOH said that of the additional 59 B.1.1.7 variant cases, 30 are local cases, 18 are ROFs, and 11 are currently being verified if they are local or ROF cases. 

“This brings the total number of B.1.1.7 cases in the country to 177,” it said.

“Sixteen of the local cases are from the Cordillera Administrative Region, 10 are from the National Capital Region, two are from Central Luzon, and 2 are from CALABARZON,” it added.

Of the 32 new B.1.351 (South Africa) variant cases, 21 are local cases, one is an ROF, and 10 are still being verified as to location. 

Meanwhile, 19 of the local cases are from NCR, one is from Cagayan Valley, and one is from Northern Mindanao.

“This brings the total number of B.1.351 cases in the country to 90,” the DOH said.

On the other hand, the UP-PGC previously detected 85 cases with a unique set of mutations, including both E484K and N501Y mutations. 

“Upon verification with the Phylogenetic Assignment of Named Global Outbreak Lineages (PANGOLIN), the said samples with these mutations have been reassigned to the P.3 variant, belonging to the B.1.1.28 lineage, to which the P.1 variant also belongs,” the DOH said.

“Thirteen additional cases were detected in this batch which bring the total P.3 variant cases in the country to 98,” it added.

“The DOH, UP-PGC, and UP-NIH emphasize that at present, the P.3 is NOT identified as a variant of concern as current available data are insufficient to conclude whether the variant will have significant public health implications,” it said.

Japanese health authorities said they detected the N501Y and E484K in a sample collected from a traveler from the Philippines on February 25. —KG, GMA News