The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said the Philippines is ready to face Deltacron, a combination of the highly contagious Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus but the World Health Organization (WHO) urged Filipinos to remain vigilant against another “inevitable” surge in COVID-19 cases.
“I think based on our experience in the past and many experiences that we have gathered throughout the response in the pandemic, we should be ready to face another variant of concern,” said Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, speaking to the ANC news channel.
The hybrid variant was reportedly discovered in a Cyprus lab as early as January. It was first believed to be likely the result of lab contamination.
The WHO, meanwhile, urged Filipinos to remain vigilant as the world marked the second anniversary of the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic.
The public needs to remain on alert as virus surges in other parts of the world might result in a new variant, said Dr. Rajendra Prasav Yadav, acting WHO Representative to the Philippines.
The WHO has yet to determine whether the “Deltacron” variant, a combination of the delta and omicron variants, is more dangerous or transmissible, Yadav said.
“When we start lowering our guards and masks, this is a disaster because we’re seeing the vaccination pace slow down considerably in the past few days. It is too early to declare victory against the virus. We need to remain vigilant and continue to exercise caution,” he told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
“We are seeing a huge surge in cases in the Western Pacific region… When we have a surge of cases anywhere in the world we have a risk of developing a new variant of concern and as we know from our past experience such a variant can come to the Philippines so we have to remain on our guard,” he added.
Living with the pandemic does not mean becoming passive as another wave of infections is “inevitable,” Yadav said.
An infectious disease expert on Friday said the combined genes from the Delta and Omicron variants or “Deltacron” will not cause severe infections.
According to Dr. Rontgene Solante, the recombination of the highly contagious Delta and Omicron variants will “not affect much” despite the limited data on the behavior of the hybrid versions of the coronavirus.
“Well for now, the data is still limited. But personally, I believe that with this recombination, it will not affect the virulence but it has the implication that it is still the same in the transmission,” Solante said during an online briefing.
“Because if Delta is combined with Omicron, the Omicron has the more heavily mutations so if we look at its mutations, I would surmise that it will be more Omicron over Delta and if this is the case we would still be dealing with the more transmissible virus just like the Omicron,” he said.
Experts earlier noted that Deltacron reportedly discovered in a Cyprus laboratory is most likely the result of a laboratory contamination, and not a new worrying variant.
The IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseille, France, however, reported that it is too soon to know whether Deltacron infections will be very transmissible or cause severe disease.
Solante also doubted that it would cause severe infections, noting that many have already been vaccinated against the severity of the viral disease.
Meanwhile, Cabotaje said the shelf life of about 12 million to 13 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been extended.
“There are also requests for approval of extensions for Gamaleya being processed,” she added.
Some of the vaccines may expire by March or April.
Cabotaje also said the use of the vaccines developed by Russia’s Gamaleya were affected by the delayed delivery of vaccines last year.
On Thursday, the Philippines logged 592 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the nationwide tally to 3,668,940 and active cases to 47,173.