DOH reports 1st case of COVID-19 Brazil variant in Philippines

Bonz Magsambol
The case is a returning overseas Filipino from Western Visayas

The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday, March 13, reported the country’s first case of the highly transmissible Brazil variant of COVID-19 called P1.

In a statement sent to media, the DOH said that the first case involves a returning overseas Filipino (ROF) from Western Visayas.

Scientists said that P1 emerged in Brazil and has now been found in at least 20 countries. It can re-infect people who previously recovered from COVID-19. They estimated that this virus type was 1.4 to 2.2 times more transmissible than the initial form of the virus.

The research, conducted with scientists at Brazil’s University of São Paulo and Britain’s University of Oxford, suggested that the P1 variant had probably emerged in Manaus in early November 2020.

59 new cases of UK variant, 32 South African variant

The DOH also reported 59 new cases of the more contagious United Kingdom (UK) variant of COVID-19, pushing the Philippines’ total infections with this virus type to 177.

According to the DOH, 30 of the new cases are local, 18 are ROFs, and 11 are currently being verified if they are local or ROF cases.

“Sixteen of the local cases are from the Cordillera Administrative Region, 10 are from the National Capital Region, 2 are from Central Luzon, and 2 are from Calabarzon,” the DOH said.

The UK variant, known as B117, was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020. In November, around a quarter of the reported COVID-19 cases in the country were found to be of the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Meanwhile, 32 new cases of the South African variant were also recorded, bringing total cases of this virus type in the country to 90.

“Of the 32 B1351 variant cases, 21 are local cases, 1 is an ROF, and 10 are still being verified as to location. Meanwhile, 19 of the local cases are from NCR, 1 is from Cagayan Valley, and 1 is from Northern Mindanao,” the DOH said.

The mutation N501Y is present in the variants first found in the United Kingdom (B117), South Africa (B1351), and Brazil (P1) – making them more transmissible than the original version of the virus.

Meanwhile, B1351 and P1 have the E484K mutation, which experts say may have an effect on vaccine efficacy.

The DOH also confirmed the detection of a new COVID-19 variant found in the Philippines, but said that it is “more accurately described as a variant first reported in the Philippines” not “Philippine variant.” –

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.