The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is mutating and the dominant strain circulating in the world was detected in the Philippines, scientists said. The variant has the potential to be more contagious without being deadlier, an infectious disease expert said.
This means the public should not let its guard down in preventing the spread of the virus -- wear face masks and face shields, wash hands properly and observe physical distancing, said Dr. Edsel Salvana from the University of the Philippines Manila.
The G614 strain of SARS-CoV was detected from positive samples in Quezon City, the Philippine Genome Center said in a report. Scientists, however, gave this disclaimer: "We note that all the samples tested were from Quezon City and may not represent the mutational landscape for the whole country." Another strain called D614G was also detected.
A mutation to the G614 strain "can increase the viral rate of transmission," according to the Philippine Genome Center paper.
"Ang alam po natin, mukhang mas nakakahawa, pero walang ebidensiya na mas nakakamatay (We know that it could be more contagious but there's no evidence that it is more lethal)," Salvana told Teleradyo.
Salvana said G614 could be three times more contagious at the very least. "Alam natin exponential ang spread... Dahil mas infectious siya, ngayon we are just barely keeping our health system from being overwhelmed, mas kailangan ng preventive measures."
(We know that the spread is exponential... Because it is more infections, we need preventive measures more, now that we are just barely keeping our health system from being overwhelmed.)
However, Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said that there is not yet enough evidence to say that the virus strain spreading COVID-19 all over the Philippines is the more contagious G614.
"We still need a lot of evidence to say na mutated na 'yung virus na nandito, na 'yun 'yung kumakalat sa bansa. Basta ang alam natin 'yung G614 and D614 ang strains na meron tayo sa Pilipinas pero hindi pa conclusive kasi 'yung study ng Philippine Genome Center was just in Quezon City area. So kailangan pang palawakin para makita natin ng maayos 'yan," she said.
(We still need a lot of evidence to say that the mutated virus is the one spreading in the country. What we do know is G614 and D614 are the strains that we have in the Philippines but it is not conclusive yet because the study of the Philippine Genome Center was just in Quezon City area. So we need to widen the study so we can see it properly.)
The Philippines is leading Southeast Asia with the most COVID-19 cases, up to 161,253 as of late Sunday. Strict quarantines or MECQ in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal will expire at midnight Tuesday and President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to decide Monday whether to extend it or lower it one notch to GCQ -- allowing wider work resumption and public transport.