Philippines detects Lambda COVID-19 variant

PHILIPPINE health authorities on Sunday said they have detected the first case of the Lambda coronavirus variant that is more contagious and resistant to vaccines. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

PHILIPPINE health authorities on Sunday said they have detected the first case of the Lambda coronavirus variant that is more contagious and resistant to vaccines.

The patient was a 35-year-old woman who did not show symptoms and who had since recovered, the Department of Health (DoH) said in a statement.

The agency was tracing people who had close contact with the patient, who became well after being isolated for 10 days, it said.

“This variant of interest has the potential to affect the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 and is currently being monitored for its possible clinical significance,” DoH said.

Lambda is a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It was first detected in Peru in December. It is said to be more contagious than the original strain from Wuhan China. It is also more resistant to vaccines, according to studies.

DoH also reported 182 more infections from the Delta coronavirus variant from India, 41 from the Alpha variant from the UK, 66 from the Beta variant first detected in South Africa, and 40 from the local P.3 variant.

The Philippines now had 807 Delta, 2,232 Alpha, 2,483 Beta and 347 P.3 variant cases, it said.

The Health department reported 14,749 coronavirus infections on Sunday, the second-highest tally since the pandemic started last year, bringing the total to 1.74 million.

The death toll rose to 30,340 after 270 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 10,720 to 1.61 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 102,748 active cases, 95.9% of which were mild, 1.1% did not show symptoms, 1.3% were severe, 0.93% were moderate and 0.8% were critical.

DoH said 364 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 360 of which were tagged as recoveries. Five recoveries were reclassified as active cases and 141 recoveries were tagged as deaths. Three laboratories failed to submit data on Aug. 13.

Meanwhile the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines said COVID-19 cases increased by 29% last week. The virus reproduction number in the country was 1.49.

It added that the Philippines now had an average of 11,000 daily infections. “It is very likely that new cases will continue to increase next week,” it said in a report.

In the National Capital Region, the average daily cases hit 3,000, while hospital occupancy had breached 70%.

Ilocos Norte and Aklan were at critical risk in terms of their average daily attack rate, although their one-week growth rates have slowed.

Cebu City, Lapu Lapu and Mandaue, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, Batangas, Misamis Oriental and Cagayan have also reached above 70% healthcare capacity, while Misamis Oriental and Cagayan were above the critical level at 85% capacity.

Among the provinces in the country, Tarlac had the biggest one-week growth rate.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire last week said it was too early to say whether the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila would be extended after Aug. 20.

The Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines said an extended lockdown would aggravate the hardship and suffering of people who have yet to recover from the ill effects of the pandemic.

The National Task Force against COVID-19 on Friday said the government would prioritize the vaccination of people in places under a strict lockdown.

The government would start using the two million doses of CoronaVac that arrived from China on Thursday and the Pfizer and Sinopharm doses donated by the United Arab Emirates that arrived on Wednesday. Almost 600,000 doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca Plc arrived on Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said the vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. has been the most administered brand in the Philippines, hence the greatest number of COVID-19 resurgence is among those who got it.

FDA Director General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo said COVID-19 infections are not necessarily related to the effectivity of a specific vaccine brand.

The Health department earlier said the lockdown could get extended. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

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