All of the COVID-19 cases in Central Visayas that showed two mutations of the virus exhibited only mild symptoms and have been discharged from quarantine, health officials said yesterday.
“All the cases in Central Visayas with the 2 mutations of concern – E484K as well as the N501Y – exhibited only mild symptoms and have been cleared from their quarantine,” said Philippine Genome Center executive director Dr. Cynthia Saloma.
Department of Health Central Visayas regional director Dr. Jaime Bernadas said they would heighten the case surveillance in the areas where the mutations were detected.
The N501Y mutation is also found in the UK coronavirus variant, which has been associated by experts with higher transmissibility.
But Saloma sait it is still too early to say whether the mutations confirm the presence of a possible Philippine variant of COVID-19.
“Whether we have an emerging Philippine variant or not, that remains to be seen,” she said.
“That’s always a possibility in different countries around the world that is why we’re conducting genomic biosurveillance,” she added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the experts have yet to confirm whether the mutations detected in Central Visayas would have significant public health implications.
“We do not have enough data yet for our experts to determine the implications of the mutations,” Duque said.
DOH Central Visayas spokesperson and chief pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche earlier said the mutations were found in 37 of the 50 samples from patients in Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City and Cebu province that underwent genome sequencing.
Majority of the samples – 29 out of 50 – had “co-occurence” of the two mutations, she said.
The country earlier recorded 44 cases of COVID-19 with the more transmissible UK variant.
Earlier this month, a British minister in charge of vaccine deployment said there are now around 4,000 variants of the novel coronavirus around the world, and vaccine makers must improve their shots to combat the new strains.
“All manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and others, are looking at how they can improve their vaccine to make sure that we are ready for any variant – there are about 4,000 variants around the world of COVID now,” British Minister Nadhim Zahawi said.
“It’s very unlikely that the current vaccine won’t be effective on the variants especially when it comes to severe illness and hospitalization,” he added.
According to the British Medical Journal, only a very small minority of the mutated strains are likely to be important even as thousands of variants have been detected.