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DOH, Genome Center: No new COVID-19 variant yet in PH

The Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) said on Wednesday, January 6, that the UK variant of COVID-19 – believed to be more contagious than the original variant of SARS-CoV2 – has not reached the Philippine shores yet.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, the agencies said that this was based on the genome sequencing PGC conducted on 305 samples of inbound travelers and hospital admissions from November to December that tested positive for the disease upon the person's arrival in the Philippines.

"Based on the lineage analysis through whole genome sequencing done by the PGC, the UK variant was not detected in any of the 305 positive samples submitted to them from 9 institutions," they said.

Genomic sequencing is the process of analyzing the virus sample taken from a diagnosed patient and comparing it with other cases to see whether those who tested positive for COVID-19 carry the new variant. 

This development came after Hong Kong health officials detected the presence of the UK variant of COVID-19 in a passenger who returned from Manila on December 22. (READ: Hong Kong detects new COVID-19 variant in passenger from Manila)

The case is a 30-year-old female Hong Kong resident, who returned from Manila on December 22 via PR 300. She has been tagged case 9003.

'Close coordination'

The DOH said that they are in "close coordination" with Hong Kong authorities to secure "official notification and other pertinent information regarding the Hong Kong resident who tested positive for the variant following travel history from the Philippines."

The new COVID-19 variant known as B117 was first detected in the United Kingdom in September.

The detection of the new variant has pushed countries to tighten borders anew as a precautionary measure. (READ: Philippines bars travelers from countries with cases of new COVID-19 variant) – Rappler.com

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.

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