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.