Six travelers coming from India who arrived in the Philippines before the travel ban tested positive for COVID-19, confirmed by the Department of Health on Wednesday, May 5.
According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the samples of the six COVID-positive individuals have been submitted to the Philippine Genome Center to determine if they were carrying the B.1.617 variant first found in India.
DOH said there were over 100 travelers from India who entered the country before the 15-day travel ban was imposed on April 29 that are currently under quarantine.
Although the government has eased the travel restrictions for foreign nationals a week ago, this does not apply to travelers from India.
B.1.617 variant dubbed as “double mutant” is widely blamed for the second wave of infection in India. To date, the Philippines has no known record yet of the said variant.
In a weekly update released by the World Health Organization (WHO), the emerging B.1.617 variants were classified as variants under investigation (VUI). This variant includes a characteristic mutation that has been associated with increased transmissibility, a reduction in neutralization by some (but not all)
monoclonal antibody treatments, and a moderate reduction in neutralization in post-vaccination sera in the USA.
It remains unclear how generalizable laboratory-based studies of limited sample sizes, as well as studies of other variants with similar key mutations, are to the wider circulating B.1.617 variants. Further robust studies into the phenotypic impacts of these variants, including impacts on epidemiological characteristics (transmissibility, severity, reinfection risk, etc.) and impact on countermeasures, are urgently needed, the update said.