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Thursday, June 13, 2024

BOQ on heightened alert over FLiRT

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Stricter screening at ports of entry ordered

The Department of Health – Bureau of Quarantine is now on a “heightened alert” for the new COVID-19 “FLiRT” variants.

In a memorandum, Director Ferdinand Salcedo directed all BOQ stations and other concerned agencies to “conduct thorough screening at points of entry for arriving visitors originating from countries where COVID FliRT incidents have been detected.”

“We are facing a new COVID-19 strain that has the KP.1 and KP.2 variations, which are parts of the newly-discovered subvariant identified as FLiRT, a novel virus spreading globally,” Salcedo said.

“The general public should take basic health measures such as frequent hand washing, coughing etiquette, and avoiding crowded situations and getting in contact with people with flu-like symptoms.”

Among the countries where FLiRT has been detected are the United States, Canada, Australia, and Singapore, among others.

The Singapore government said it had monitored a new wave of COVID-19 infections after its estimated count of weekly cases nearly doubled from May 5 to 11 with 25,900 cases compared with 13,700 cases in the prior period. About two-thirds of the new cases are due to the new variants.

Infectious diseases expert and Philippine College of Physicians president Dr. Rontgene Solante said the FLiRT variants only pose a “low public health risk” but warned that the absence of newer vaccines make Filipinos – particularly the elderly and the immunocompromised – vulnerable to the virus.

“It’s sad because new variants emerge from mutations, and we are no longer protected by the first vaccines we got,” Solante told GMANEWS.

“We are all vulnerable and so we should really be careful and watch out for our symptoms because we can get severe infections, especially in the elderly, even if they are vaccinated,” he added.

The DOH on Friday said the primary series and boosters that most Filipinos received still provide “residual immunity.”

“We need to strengthen the remaining immunity. We need new COVID vaccines,” DOH Assistant Secretary Albert Domingo told ABS-CBN News.

Another infectious disease expert who asked not to be named underscored the need to mask up.

“Warnings are being released now by the government primarily because of the new strain’s contagiousness. We should retain our mask mandate because as I’ve been mentioning before, COVID-19 has not yet been eradicated,” the expert said.

The Manila International Airport Authority on Monday clarified it is not imposing the use of face masks on travelers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport following the BOQ memorandum.

MIAA General Manager Eric Jose Ines likewise instructed terminal housekeeping service providers to disinfect items and locations where passenger contact exposure is high, such as check-in counters, immigration counter tops, and plastic trays used for final screening of passenger luggage and items.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline DOH puts Bureau of Quarantine on ‘heightened alert’ vs Covid FLiRT variant

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