DESPITE a reported hybrid coronavirus variant in Vietnam, the Department of Health yesterday said that more evidence is needed before the Philippines can impose a travel ban over the reported variant.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the World Health Organization is still studying the new variant, which was described in reports by the Vietnamese state media as a mix of the India (B.1.617.2) and United Kingdom (B.1.1.7) variants and spreads quickly by air.
“Ang WHO… sinasabi nilang hindi pa nila nakukuha ‘yung lahat ng detalye at nakikipag-coordinate pa sila sa Vietnam at pag-aaralan pa nila nang mas mabuti para makapagbigay sila ng guidance sa mga bansa,” she said.
Vergeire said a travel ban may be recommended if the WHO classifies the variant as one “of concern.”
“If that would be something na sasabihin po ng WHO at sinabi nila na ang classification is ‘of concern,’ nandiyan po ‘yung posibilidad na maaari naman po nating gawin ‘yan para lang po ating ma-prevent ang pagpasok ng ganitong variant sa ating bansa,” she said.
WHO defines a variant of concern as one associated with increased transmissibility or “detrimental” change in COVID-19 epidemiology, increased virulence, or decreased effectiveness of health protocols, diagnostics, vaccines, or therapeutics.
Both the B.1.617.2 and the B.1.1.7 are classified as variants of concern.
The DOH official reiterated that strictly adhering to minimum public health standards would protect an individual from any of the variants.
“Hindi po natin kailangan mag-panic dahil po dito sa balitang ito. Pag-igtingin lang po natin ang pagpapatupad ng ating health protocols and we will be protected from any of these variants,” she said.
The Philippines has logged over 2,000 COVID-19 cases with variants of concern as of May 26.