MANILA – The Philippines is monitoring developments on the Lambda variant (C.37) of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) that is reportedly more dangerous than the Delta variant, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Malaysia’s Health Ministry announced that the Lambda variant, which originated from Peru, has been detected in more than 30 countries in the past four weeks.
“We will monitor also the development and we will act accordingly,” Roque said in a press briefing in Pampanga.
He assured the national government is taking steps to prevent the entry of the Lambda variant in the Philippines, noting that there are currently no direct flights between the Philippines and Latin America.
“Ang Lambda variant po ay nanggagaling po sa Peru at sa Latin America, it helps na wala pong direct flights to the Philippines from Latin America. Halos lahat po ng mga flights ay nag-originate po sa Estados Unidos (The Lambda variant originated in Peru and Latin America and it helps that there are no direct flights from Latin America to the Philippines. Most of our flights originate from the United States),” he added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, for his part, said there would be “strict border control” to prevent the new Covid-19 variant from entering the country.
“Ang ating pamamaraan ay ganoon pa rin – strict border control. At napatunayan na natin na ito’y epektibo dahil nga sa Delta variant ay wala pang nakakalusot ni isa sa atin pong mga komunidad, wala pa pong local case nor local transmission (Our strategy is the same—strict border control. This is proven effective because there is still no reported local case or local transmission of the Delta variant in the country),” he said.
He said returning overseas Filipinos must undergo a strict 14-day quarantine, where they will stay for 10 days in government quarantine facilities and will be tested for Covid-19 on the seventh day. If they turn out negative, they will finish their quarantine at home.
Duque also assured that Covid-19 vaccines remain effective in preventing severe illness and death, even against new strains.
“Lahat naman ng ating mga bakuna ay ligtas at epektibo at ito po ay libre na ibinigay natin sa mga ating kababayan at wala naman pong datos or wala naman pong impormasyon na kung nababawasan ba ang pagiging epektibo ng ating mga bakuna dito sa bagong [Lambda] C.37 variant; so effective ang lahat ng ating mga bakuna thus far (All our vaccines are safe and effective and this is given for free to all our citizens. There is no data or information to show that the effectiveness of vaccines has been reduced with the emergence of the C.37 variant; so all vaccines are effective thus far),” he added.
The Lambda Covid-19 strain remains to be a “variant of interest,” according to an official from the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Lambda at this point in time still remains a variant of interest. That does not mean that we are not following it, we are still studying it and it doesn’t warrant classification as a variant of concern at this point in time,” Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines, said in a TV interview.
Open to suggestions
Meanwhile, Roque said the government’s pandemic task force remains open to suggestions made by local governments units (LGUs) in terms of adding requirements for fully-vaccinated leisure travelers.
Some LGUs, including La Union, admitted that they are not keen on allowing the entry of fully-vaccinated leisure travelers without first going through a swab test.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) earlier lifted the swab test requirement for travelers. They will only have to present their vaccination cards.
“When the IATF issues resolutions, it acts for and behalf of the President. Pero hindi naman po bingi ang IATF sa mga reklamo at suhestiyon ng local na pamahalaan. Pag-uusapan din ‘yan sa IATF (The IATF is not deaf to complaints and suggestions of local governments. It will be discussed in the IATF). But we ask everyone to comply with IATF resolutions as of now,” he said.
A fully-vaccinated individual must be administered with vaccines that are included in the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) List or Compassionate Special Permit (CSP) issued by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration or Emergency Use Listing of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Observe health protocols
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) urged anew the public to strictly follow health protocols amid the emergence of new Covid-19 variants.
“The cooperation of our kababayans in the implementation of the minimum public health safety protocol is itself a strong first line of defense against the spread of the virus, no matter what variant it is,” said PNP chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, in a statement.
He also reminded the public that observing the minimum public health safety protocols, such as wearing face masks, face shields, and maintaining social distancing, can provide protection against the different variants of the deadly virus.
He also urged the public to put their trust in vaccines approved by experts and get themselves inoculated once available.
“Getting vaccinated will protect not only yourself but also your family and loved ones, ” Eleazar said.
He also vowed that the PNP would continue its duty of protecting the public by enforcing the protocols set by the national government in this fight against the pandemic. (with Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)