MANILA: The Philippines' health ministry said on Sunday (Aug 15) it has detected the first case of COVID-19's Lambda variant in the country, and reminded the public to strictly observe minimum public health standards.
The country recorded 14,749 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, its second-largest daily increase, bringing the Southeast Asian country's total confirmed infections to 1.74 million.
The Department of Health also reported an additional 270 deaths, the third highest one-day spike in fatalities, increasing the death toll to 30,340.
The World Health Organization classifies Lambda as a "variant of interest", which was first identified in Peru in December, as laboratory studies showed it has mutations that resist vaccine-induced antibodies.
In a paper posted on Jul 28 ahead of peer review, the researchers warn that with Lambda being labeled a "variant of interest" rather than a "variant of concern", people might not realise it is a serious ongoing threat.
Although it is not clear yet whether this variant is more dangerous than the Delta variant now threatening populations in many countries, senior researcher Kei Sato of the University of Tokyo believes "Lambda can be a potential threat to the human society".
But several infectious disease experts told Reuters that the variant may be receding.
Dr Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, said the percentage of new Lambda cases reported to GISAID, a database that tracks SARS-CoV-2 variants, has been dropping - a sign that the variant is waning.
In a recent call with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, disease experts said Lambda did not appear to be causing increased transmissibility, and vaccines appear to be holding up well against it, said Dr William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who attended the discussion.