The Department of Health has confirmed that a new and more infectious variant of Covid-19 was detected in a Filipino traveller, who arrived from the United Arab Emirates on January 7.
The new variant of Covid-19 found in the United Kingdom detected by the Philippine Genome Center from samples collected from the traveler from the UAE is the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant, described by scientists as more contagious.
The UK variant was detected in the country despite measures implemented by the government, including a travel ban on foreign travelers from countries where it was found. UAE is not among those in the travel ban due to the new Covid-19 variants detected, not just in UK, but also in South Africa.
A Filipina in Hong Kong had earlier tested positive for the UK variant upon arrival from the Philippines.
Experts have warned that new Covid-19 variants could result in an exponential rise in cases in the country if community transmission is not prevented. Now that the DOH has finally confirmed the existence of the more infectious UK variant in the country, the possibility that it is already spreading within certain communities is present.
Aside from the new Covid-19 variant, the recent holidays and other super spreader events, such as the Feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9, raise the level of risk and will demand more preparations from proactive government units.
Filipinos who have been in varying states of quarantine since March already know what to do but confirmation of this new variant in the country should serve as another warning for everyone to raise the level of vigilance and preparedness as well as to adhere to the health and sanitation protocols that we have relied on for the past nine months.
Our country cannot afford another surge of Covid-19 and, as usual, it is up to the Filipino people to protect themselves and their communities. Quarantine fatigue or a sense of complacency may have set in due to the extreme length of our quarantines but the confirmation of this new and more infectious variant should serve as a warning for us to be on our toes once more if we want to see the light at the end of this long dark tunnel.*