COVID-19 Philippine variant? Call it ‘Theta,’ says WHO

Bonz Magsambol

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COVID-19 Philippine variant? Call it ‘Theta,’ says WHO
The World Health Organization reveals the new names of the COVID-19 variants, based on the letters of the Greek alphabet

In a bid to simplify discussion and pronunciation while avoiding stigma, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave new names for the COVID-19 variants, including the Philippine variant P3, which is now called Theta.

The WHO on Monday, May 31, revealed the new names of the variants, based on the letters of the Greek alphabet. The variants were grouped into two: variants of concern (VOC) and variants of interest (VOI).

The Theta variant is considered a VOI. The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said that it was “not identified as a variant of concern, as current available data are insufficient to conclude whether the variant will have significant public health implications.”

The DOH has since discouraged the public to identify the variants according to where they were first detected to avoid stigma.

According to the WHO, a variant is considered VOC if it meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology
  • Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation
  • Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics

Four VOCs have been detected to date: B117 (United Kingdom variant), B1351 (South Africa variant), P1 (Brazil variant), and B1617.2 (India variant). The Philippines has reported cases of these VOCs.

Here’s the list of the new names of the VOCs:

Meanwhile, a variant is considered VOI if it contains mutations with “established or suspected phenotypic implication,” and either:

  • has been identified to cause community transmission/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries; or
  • is otherwise assessed to be a VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group

Six VOIs have been detected to date.

Below are the names of the VOIs:

COVID-19 Philippine variant? Call it ‘Theta,’ says WHO


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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.