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Two highly transmissible COVID-19 variants now present in all Metro Manila cities

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Mar 22, 2021 6:39 pm

The Department of Health confirmed on Monday that the two more transmissible COVID-19 variants—UK (B.1.1.7) and South African (B.1.351)—are now present in all cities in Metro Manila.

“Hindi natin ipagkakaila na nakita na itong mga variants ay nasa lahat ng cities dito sa Metro Manila. At ‘yan ay factual na,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a virtual press briefing.

She added, “Mayroon na tayo either the UK variant or the South African variant. Also in other cities, mayroon siya both the UK and South African variant.”

According to Vergeire, the highly transmissible variants have contributed to the increase in the number of cases in the country but she maintains that the root cause of the new cases’ surge is poor compliance with health protocols and “some institutional gaps.”

Even with the variants reportedly present in all Metro Manila cities, Vergeire said the DOH still need to discuss with the World Health Organization if there is indeed community transmission of the said variants.

Marketgoers fill the aisles of the Marikina public market on March 21, amid the surge of new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Photo by Michael Varcas

Meanwhile, Presidential Harry Roque in a press briefing Monday echoed DOH’s explanation on what is driving the COVID-19 surge in the country.

“Unang-una po, yung ating bagong variants, nandiyan na. Mayroon din po tayong datos na mababa ang ating mask compliance,” said Roque, who noted that the vaccine confidence also contributed to the surge of the new cases.

He added, “Nagkakaroon din po tayo ng superspreader events, gatherings, at poor ventilation. Mayroon na rin po tayong reduced surveillance, reduced contact tracing at delayed testing. Yan ang mga babawiin natin muli sa susunod na dalawang linggo.”

"Secret parties"

Trade Secretary Mon Lopez, meanwhile, blamed the spike in recent COVID-19 cases also blamed the public for the recent spike in infections due to an increase in what he called as “secret parties.”

“Maraming nag-reunion, whether former classmates o kamag-anak na hindi kayo nagkikita, maraming secret parties,” Lopez said. “Naging complacent na yung mga galaw ng tao at maraming nang medyo nag-violate din ng ating health protocols.”

Lopez, however, did not provide any numbers behind the so-called rise in “secret parties.”

Record-high anew

On Saturday, the Department of Health said the country has recorded 223 cases of the COVID-19 UK variant and 152 cases of the South African variant.

Meanwhile, the P.3 variant, which was first detected in the Philippines and has reportedly similar mutations like the abovementioned variants, has a total of 104 cases.

The Philippines has logged record numbers of COVID-19 cases, especially in Metro Manila. Today, the country’s new COVID-19 cases hit a new record high with 8,019 new confirmed cases, which brings the total number of cases in the country to 671,792 with 12,972 deaths and 577,850 recoveries.

Banner and thumbnail image by Michael Varcas/The Philippine STAR