MANILA – The Delta Plus variant that has spread from India to 11 countries with 200 cases is not yet a variant of concern (VOC), a health expert said on Saturday.
In a televised public briefing of Laging Handa, Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-dela Paz, executive director of the University of the Philippines Manila – National Institutes of Health, said the World Health Organization (WHO) in its latest epidemiological report has not identified the Delta Plus variant, an emerging form of the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus, as a VOC.
According to the WHO, a VOC is a family of coronavirus with mutations causing threats against public health as it is more transmissible, causes severe symptoms, or able to escape the effects of medicines and vaccines.
“Only the WHO can say which variant is a variant of concern,” dela Paz said.
She noted that the Delta Plus variant has an additional mutation – K417N – apart from the three mutations present in Delta variants L452R, P681R, and T478K.
Dela Paz said the additional mutation could contribute to the immune response escape of the variant but there is still no data whether the Delta Plus variant could decrease the efficacy rate of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines.
Citing the result of the latest genome sequencing, she said there are only 17 Delta variant cases in the country – all from returning international travelers, with no local case recorded yet.
“Maganda po siguro ma-verify natin yung presence ng sinasabing Delta variants sa Davao dahil sa atin pong national surveillance wala pa po kami naitala na local cases (It would be best to verify the reported cases of Delta variants in Davao because we have not logged any local case in our national surveillance),” dela Paz said.
Whether it is Delta or Delta Plus variant, she noted that border control remains the best strategy to keep a VOC from entering the country.
“Patuloy po iyan pinapalakas ng ating gobyerno, ‘yung minimum public health standards at ating paraan ng paggagamot nananatiling pareho at epektibo kahit ano pa mang variant ang meron (Our government continues to strengthen that, the minimum public health standards and treatment procedures are the same and effective on whatever variant),” she said.
Dela Paz urged the public to do their part in keeping the number of infections low since “every case is an opportunity for the virus to mutate and become more transmissible, like what happened in India.”
She also assured the public that the Philippine Genome Center has the capability to sequence any coronavirus variant as it has the government’s full support even before the pandemic started. (PNA)