DOH debunks claim of new novel coronavirus strain targeting 29-40 age group

The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday, September 4, debunked claims of a new strain of the novel coronavirus in the country that supposedly targets people aged 29 to 40.

"It is very dangerous and irresponsible to say that we now have a different strain here in the country," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual press briefing.

Vergeire issued the statement after a viral social media post claimed that the novel coronavirus strain in the country had mutated "into a more dangerous strain."

"Our data shows that while age groups are affected, the age group with the highest number of cases is 29 to 40 years old. It is not because there is a new strain targeting them. It is because they are usually the ones going out and doing errands," Vergeire explained. 

The DOH earlier reported a new strain of the COVID-19 virus in the country called G614. Vergeire said on Friday that G614 "increases the viral load, but it does not automatically mean that it is more infectious and is more fatal." (READ: Possibly more infectious novel coronavirus strain found in the Philippines)

"We have seen in an increase in the number of cases due to the gradual opening of our economy, but we know that increase economic activities entails increase mobility among our population, which of course in turn increases the chances of being infected," Vergeire said.

Vergeire reminded the public to always look for science-based information instead of relying on anecdotal stories.

Decreasing trend?

For the first time since July 29, the Philippines reported a rise of less than 2,000 coronavirus cases in a day on Thursday, September 3. (READ: New daily PH coronavirus cases stay below 2,000 for first time in a month)

Vergeire noted that there were less coronavirus cases in the country in the past two days, or on Wednesday and Thursday, compared to previous days, but health officials compute the "decreasing trend" in cases or deaths over a 7-day period.

She said that there are several factors that affect the trend of cases, one of which is reporting.

"If we check our reporting, have all the laboratories submitted their data? How many submitted? We have to look at these things to say if the decrease in the number of cases is artificial or if there is really reduction in cases," Vergeire said in a mix of English and Filipino.

She said the DOH will study and analyze the cases in the next days to get a clear picture of the pandemic situation in the country.

"We wait for 7 days so we can have the 7-day moving average," Vergeire added.

As of Thursday, the Philippines recorded 228,403 COVID-19 infections – the highest in Southeast Asia – and registered 3,688 deaths and 159,475 recoveries. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.