New COVID 'Variant of Concern' Detected in Cebu, Says DOH

It's likely "homegrown".
Photo/s: Shutterstock

A possible homegrown COVID-19 variant has been detected in Cebu, regional health officials said Thursday, adding it could explain why local cases have been rising. 

Of the 59 samples sent to the Philippine Genome Center (PGC), there were 37 samples identified to have two "mutations of concern," Department Of Health Central Visayas spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche said.

For now, it is classified as a "variant of concern," since it's exact origin is unclear and its implications on public health are yet to be determined.

Scientists also could not say exactly how this differs from other COVID variants, Loreche said.

It is likely homegrown, said Dr. Junjie Zuasola, head of the DOH Central Visayas Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit.

“Whether this variation is virulent, we still need to study some more, but one thing is for sure, this could probably be one of the reasons why there was a second spike," he said. 

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The DOH has been preparing for the emergence of virus variants as testing was ramped up after the Christmas holidays, Loreche said.

"We would like to remind that there is no cause for panic on this because first, we have been able to isolate and contact trace these individuals.. The more cases we have the greatest possibility of variation," she said.

Zuasola said it was typical for viruses to mutate into new variants.

“Be that as they may, the regional epidemiology and surveillance office is doing whatever they can in their capacity to coordinate with local government units to stamp the spread of this virus,” Zuasola said. 

PGC on Friday reported that "all cases in Central Visayas with two mutations of concern exhibited only mild symptoms and have been cleared," but are still being strictly monitored. 

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