Here's everything we know so far about the new variant of COVID-19 that is spreading around the world.
What is this new virus strain?
The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, has evolved or mutated into a new variant. Viruses mutate to adapt to their environment, experts said.
Is this new strain more dangerous?
No, according to Health Sec. Francisco Duque, but it spreads faster compared to the original strain.
"Hindi siya mas grabe o mas serious ang sakit. Mas mabilis lang siyang makahawa," Duque told President Rodrigo Duterte during a Dec. 26 cabinet meeting.
Where is this new virus variant?
It was first reported in the UK, prompting the Philippines to suspend all inbound travel from the UK on Dec. 24 to 31. It has also been reported in Spain and Singapore. On Dec. 26, Manila extended the travel ban for two more weeks after Dec. 31.
Duterte said on Dec. 26 that it was reported in Sabah, administered by Malaysia, which is a short boat ride away from Sulu on the Philippines' southwestern tip.
Has the new virus variant arrived in the Philippines?
Not yet, but it's possible that it could, Duque said. Surveillance of the country's entry points have been tightened.
Is the Philippines prepared for this new variant?
Duque told Duterte: "We are not defenseless. Kung makakapasok siya Mr. President, please be assured that the systems, the mechanisms, the policies are all in place."
Will there be a new lockdown because of the new virus variant?
"Yung lockdown is a possibility, I am making a projection. If there is a severity in numbers, it would demand we take corrective measures immediately, then we would just go back to a lockdown," Duterte said.
"Kapag marami na and we do not have the antidote, how to kill those variants, we're having a problem there," he said.