Genome Center: Spread of highly transmissible variants in homes among factors in COVID-19 case surge in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021   •   294

MANILA, Philippines – The spread of highly transmissible variants of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) through homes contributes to the surge of infections in the country, the Philippine Genome Center said Tuesday.

Dr. Cynthia Saloma, Executive Director of the Philippine Genome Center, said there are a lot of factors contributing to the spike in COVID-19 infections but it is mainly due to “increased complacency” among Filipinos following the arrival and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Aside from complacency, the emergence of COVID-19 variants that is easily transmitted, especially among family members, is also another factor for the high infection rate.

“There is this increased complacency probably the enthusiasm in the rollout of the vaccine. And against that backdrop is the presence of these highly transmissible viruses which we believe is really, really spreading through our homes,” Saloma said during a Laging Handa public briefing.

Among the COVID-19 variants reported to have been detected in the country are the ones first reported in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), Brazil (P1), and the variant found in Central Visayas (P.3).

“So, nakita naman ninyo yung kanyang virus mutations naitala na nagmutate siya saka maganda yung kapit niya doon sa ating ACE2 receptor kaya kung in the home setting, madali talaga siyang mag-spread kasi siyempre kumakain tayo sabay-sabay di ba?” Saloma said.

“Because of its ability to attach very well or efficiently into the receptor so ‘yan and together with, of course, ‘yung complacency ng mga tao, nag-combine siya na tumaas ‘yung ating mga cases,” she added.

Saloma reported that the Philippine Genome Center has so far sequenced 4,751 COVID-19 samples nationwide. Of this number, 4,050 were found to have lineage of new variants.

The B.1.1.7 variant was found in 237 cases, the B.1.1.351 was found in 163 samples, and P1 was found in one case. The P.3 variant, which is still being investigated, was found in 104 samples.

Of the sequence samples, Saloma said the COVID-19 variants of concern only make up 9.9 percent of samples.

“Sa Pilipinas, naitala na natin dati pa na ang pinakamarami sa na-sequence natin are not really the variants of concern. Ito ‘yung mga sinasabing Hong Kong at UAE variants. Ito talaga ‘yung marami sa ating bansa,” she said.

“Kung titingnan natin, sa kabuuan, ‘yung mga may lineages na assignment, parang mga 9.9% ‘yung mga variants of concern na naitala natin sa buong Pilipinas simula noong nag-genomic biosurveillance nitong Enero,” she added.

The Philippines is currently seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, prompting the national government to revert Metro Manila under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), along with four nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna.

The ECQ period is until April 11.

The World Health Organization earlier said that the spike in coronavirus infections in the Philippines and other countries is attributed to ‘multiple factors’ including the high transmissibility of new variants, gradual reduction in compliance with health protocols due to pandemic fatigue, and optimism in vaccination rollout.

Taguig City launches home service vaccination program

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 20, 2021

The Taguig City Government on Monday (April 19) launched its home service vaccination program.

In a statement, the local government said it has expanded its reach to vaccinate residents amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

It announced that it has deployed doctors and nurses for the inoculation of bed-ridden residents for the home service vaccination program.

Residents who want to avail of the home service vaccination for their bedridden family members may call the designated telephone numbers of Taguig Telemedicine in barangay health centers as well as the city’s COVID-19 Hotline.

As of April 18, 2021, Taguig City has already vaccinated a total of 23,146 citizens.

Taguig City Mayor Lino Cayetano said the local government “must ensure that there are more locations and safer ways for residents, especially the vulnerable sector, to have access to the vaccine.” AAC

DFA reports 19 new COVID-19 cases among overseas Filipinos

Marje Pelayo   •   April 20, 2021


MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has logged 19 new COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad, bringing the total tally to 18,160 as of Tuesday (April 20).

Meanwhile, the agency also recorded 13 new recoveries, and 6 new fatalities among overseas Filipinos.

To date, there are 5,877 Filipinos undergoing treatment at home and in various facilities in a total of 91 countries and territories across the globe.



Phl shows good record in vaccination program despite criticisms — Duterte

Maris Federez   •   April 20, 2021


MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte believes that the government’s vaccination program is doing good despite the criticism thrown at it.

This, after vaccine czar and National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. reported to the president the status of the country’s vaccination program on Monday night’s Talk to the Nation aired over PTV-4.

Galvez said that the Philippines now ranks 3rd among the ASEAN member countries in vaccination, from the former 8th in ranking when the country had just started its vaccination rollout.

The Philippines also ranks 41st among 173 countries and 14th out of 47 Asian countries.

“Sa ngayon po number three po tayo at the same time 41st po tayo out of 173 countries, at number 14 po tayo sa 47 Asian countries. So hindi po tayo nahuhuli, nandoon po tayo sa may bandang per — mga ano, upper 25 percent,” Galvez said.

“Well, maganda ang record natin in spite of unfounded criticism which — anyway, we expect it. But the Philippines is able to get the upper berth, I said, of the countries that are inoculated. Maganda ang record niyan and to think that people were almost in a quandary where to get the next vaccination,” President Duterte said.

“You know, for whatever it is that really work to them, we were able to make a go at least, not everybody at one time, but we have vaccinated a lot of people. I am happy that we have completed the vaccination of the medical people, yung tinatawag nilang frontliner,” he added.

The President said the country is not really left behind as far as vaccination against COVID-19 is concerned.

“So nakita mo naman na hindi pala tayo ‘yong pinakamahina, mataas nga ‘yong atin. It goes to show that we are really working very hard, especially Secretary Galvez, to get the vaccines here in the Philippines on time. Though it is not as fast as people would like to expect, the fact that, I said, we have occupied a certain position, we are number 15 sa ano? Number three?” he said.

“Well, it speaks well of the effort of your office to at least come to a more than an acceptable performance in the matter of — well, the fight against COVID as far as the Philippines is concerned,” the President added.

Galvez has also reported that 965,960 medical frontline workers who belong in A1 category have received the first dose of the vaccination. From this number, 198,534 have already received the 2nd dose.

The vaccine czar added that 132,948 belonging to the A2 category and 180,315 from the A3 category have received the first dose of the vaccine. —/mbmf


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