DOH waiting for WHO word on new coronavirus variant

The Department of Health (DOH) is waiting for word from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa that is believed to be more transmissible.

According to DOH director Dr. Beverly Ho on Friday, WHO is set to meet within the day and may come up with a statement later in the day or on Saturday.

“Nagpapa-meeting po yung WHO ngayong araw. Kakalabas lang ng kanilang advisory at malalaman natin later in the day or siguro tomorrow kung ano yung hatol dito,” Ho told Unang Balita when asked about updates on the new variant.

(The World Health Organization called a meeting today. They just released their advisory and we may find out later in the day or tomorrow what the decision will be on this.)

The B.1.1.529 variant was found to have at least 10 mutations compared to two for Delta or three for Beta, and is being blamed for a surge of infections in South Africa.

According to a Reuters report, daily infections in South Africa jumped to more than 1,200 on Wednesday from 100 earlier this month.

Experts abroad have expressed concern that the variant may make vaccines less effective due to its spike protein, which is different from the original coronavirus that vaccines are based on.

But according to Dr. Edsel Salvana, an infectious disease expert and a member of the DOH-Technical Advisory Group, higher number of mutations does not necessarily mean that the variant has higher transmissibility or resistance to vaccines.

“So while nakakabahala ‘yung presence of certain mutations, hindi automatic na nakakamatay ito o mas natra-transmit o mas bumababa ‘yung epekto ng ating vaccines,” Salvana said during the Laging Handa briefing.

(While the presence of certain mutations are concerning, it does not mean that it has a higher transmissibility or the efficacy of vaccines will be lower.)

Salvana also assured the public that anti-COVID-19 measures remain in place all over the world.

“And the fact na na-detect na itong variant na ito at pinag-uusapan na ng WHO, ‘yung UK nga nag-travel ban na sila, it shows na ‘yung ating global genomic surveillance is working,” he said.

(And the fact that this was detected and is already being talked about by WHO, it shows that our global genomic surveillance is working.)

“Hopefully, we can prevent the spread of any new variants that come up,” Salvana added.

He also stresesd that compliance with minimum health protocols remains effective against the virus, and that vaccines can still give protection against severe COVID-19.

For its part, OCTA Research group said it will monitor the variant, which could be a potential for serious concern. KBK, GMA News

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