The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday clarified that as of January 2, the Philippine Genome Center has not detected the coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom in the Philippines.
All RT-PCR positive specimens from countries with the confirmed UK variant will undergo genome sequencing beginning Monday, January 4, 2021 the DOH said in a statement.
“Rest assured that the DOH is working with relevant agencies to ensure that stricter measures of control are being implemented in all ports of entry,” it added.
“Meanwhile, we urge everyone to keep practicing the minimum public health standards —the only universally effective protocol against any mutation, variant, or strain,” the DOH said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday said the new variant of COVID-19 found in the United Kingdom — feared to be more rapidly transmissible — has not yet reached the Philippines. He stressed, however, that this is based on the samples collected in the country in September and October.
Researchers from the Philippine Genome Center on Tuesday reported that it analyzed 65 samples from populous Metro Manila and “found practically no overlapping spike protein mutations” between the new SARS-COV-2 variant found in England and the mutated COVID-19 strain found in the Philippines in June.
It said data suggested that the D614G variant of the virus that is prevalent in the Philippines is “not closely related with the UK variant.”
Duque said the Philippine Genome Center, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health will now study the genome sequence of samples taken in November and December.
The virus mutation was reportedly detected in the UK county of Kent in late September.
The Philippine government on Wednesday announced the temporary suspension of all flights from the UK from Dec. 24 to 31 due to the new COVID-19 mutation. Duque said this is a precautionary measure to stop the entry of the strain and prevent the further spread of the virus in the country.