10 more cases of COVID-19 Indian variant found in the Philippines

Michelle Abad

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10 more cases of COVID-19 Indian variant found in the Philippines
The 10 new cases include a returning seafarer and crew members of MV Athens Bridge

The Department of Health (DOH) reported 10 new cases of the “double mutant” COVID-19 Indian variant in the Philippines on Saturday, May 15, bringing the total number of confirmed Indian variant cases to 12.

Of the 10 cases, one was a seafarer who came from Belgium, while the other nine were crew members of MV Athens Bridge.

The first two cases were reported on Tuesday, May 11, but the DOH said they had already recovered. The 12 cases are all the B1617.2 variant.

The Indian variant, named B1617 and informally dubbed the “double mutant,” has three different sub-lineages: B1617.1, B1617.2, and B1617.3. Their incidence is increasing in countries in Europe and North America, according to the World Health Organization.

According to the DOH, the seafarer among the 10 new cases disembarked in Belgium and flew back to Manila via the United Arab Emirates.

Four of the nine from the MV Athens Bridge crew have been admitted to a hospital in Manila and are currently in stable condition. The other five are currently in an isolation facility.

The DOH also reported more cases of the other variants of concern, which are more infectious than the original version of COVID-19:

  • United Kingdom variant or B117: 13 cases (3 returning overseas Filipinos or ROFs, 10 local cases)
  • South African variant or B1351: 7 cases (2 ROFs, 2 local, 3 for verification)
  • Variant first reported in the Philippines or P3: 1 case (local case)

The latest sequencing run from the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Philippine Genome Center and the UP National Institutes of Health included samples from crew members of MV Athens Bridge, ROFs with relevant travel history, and deceased severe or critical COVID-19 cases.

The health department reminded the public to strictly observe health protocols even if the government is implementing stricter border control measures.

The Philippine government is barring travelers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka until the end of May.

As of Saturday, the Philippines has 1,138,187 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 56,709 active cases and more than 19,000 deaths. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.