The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday, May 4, reported more cases of highly infectious variants of COVID-19, with 289 cases of B117 (first found in the United Kingdom), 380 cases of B1351 (first found in South Africa), and 9 cases of P3 (first found in the Philippines).
The DOH said that this was the result of the latest batch of the 744 samples that underwent genome sequencing. 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 have the new variants.
The DOH said that out of the 289 new cases of B117, 185 are local cases, 48 are returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs), and 56 are currently being verified whether they are local or ROF cases.
The country now has 948 cases of this virus type, with only 3 active cases.
"Based on the case line list, 3 cases remain active while 2 have died and 284 have recovered," the DOH said.
Meanwhile, of the 380 new cases of B1351, 196 are local cases, 107 are ROFs, and 77 are currently being verified whether they are local or ROF cases. "Based on the case line list, 1 case is still active and 379 cases have been tagged as recovered," the DOH said.
The Philippines now has 1,075 cases of this virus type. The DOH clarified that this is the "most common variant among the samples sequenced with assigned lineages, contrary to reports that it is now the dominant variant in the country."
"Among the samples with assigned lineages, the B1351 composed 18.2%, the B117 composed 16.0%, the P3 composed 2.7%, while the P1 variant composed 0.03%," the DOH added.
Experts said that the South Africa variant is also more infectious than the original version of the virus and may have an impact on vaccine efficacy.
As for the P3 variant, 9 additional cases were reported (3 ROFs, 4 local cases, and 2 cases for verification). The country now has 157 cases of this virus type.
"Based on the case line list, all 9 cases have recovered," the DOH said.
Local experts said that the P3 variant is "still not identified as a variant of concern as current available data are insufficient to conclude whether the variant will have significant public health implications."