MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte called for a meeting with the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to discuss the new coronavirus strain first reported in the United Kingdom which is feared to be more infectious.
Duterte will be meeting with the task force tomorrow, December 26.
The president had earlier barred travelers from the United Kingdom until year-end over the new strain of the coronavirus.
The new strain has been reported in several European countries and in the Philippines’ Southeast Asian neighbor, Singapore.
Local health authorities said that they have not yet detected the new strain in the Philippines.
While the new variant is believed to be more transmissible, there is no evidence yet that it increases COVID-19’s severity, the health chief said.
He added that local researchers are further assessing the profile of the new strain.
The new COVID-19 variant may aggravate the anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases during the holiday season if it reaches the Philippine shores, said physician Rontgene Solante, head of the infectious diseases unit at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
A mutated coronavirus strain spreading in Britain is on average 56% more contagious than the original version, scientists have warned in a study, urging a fast vaccine rollout to help prevent more deaths.
The new variant, which emerged in southeast England in November and is spreading fast, is likely to boost hospitalizations and deaths from Covid next year, according to the study published Wednesday by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Researchers, focusing on the English south east, east and London, said it was still uncertain whether the mutated strain was more or less deadly than its predecessor.
"Nevertheless, the increase in transmissibility is likely to lead to a large increase in incidence, with COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths projected to reach higher levels in 2021 than were observed in 2020, even if regional tiered restrictions implemented before 19 December are maintained," they said.
Total COVID-19 infections in the Philippines reached 465,724, including 9,055 deaths, as of Thursday. — with report from Agence France-Presse
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