Philippines confirms local transmission of Britain COVID-19 virus variant

Philippines confirms local transmission of Britain COVID-19 virus variant

Philippine Red Cross starts COVID-19 saliva testing
A man transfers saliva into a vial for a COVID-19 test at a Philippine Red Cross molecular laboratory in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, Philippines, Jan 25, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)

MANILA: The Philippines has confirmed domestic transmission of the new, highly contagious British variant of the coronavirus, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to abandon a plan to allow some minors to go outside their homes.

"Right now, we have local transmission where this individual or these cases with the variant have already infected their community, their family," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told news channel ANC on Tuesday (Jan 26).

The world is scrambling to contain the spread of the B117 variant, despite travel bans, new lockdowns and a tightening quarantine measures in dozens of countries, amid concerns it could not only be more transmissible, but deadlier.

READ: New COVID-19 variants – Do the UK and South Africa virus strains pose a danger to Singapore?

The Philippine health ministry said the B117 variant had spread among 12 people in Bontoc, a mountainous northern province, with 17 such cases in the country.

Its first case of the British variant was found in a Filipino who had travelled from the United Arab Emirates.

Citing the British variant, Duterte said he had scrapped a plan to allow children ages 10 to 14 in low-risk areas to go outside the home starting Feb 1.

The Philippines, which has imposed some of the world's toughest coronavirus restrictions, including internal travel bans, has since March last year officially prohibited minors from leaving the home.

READ: The Philippines is still struggling to get a handle on COVID-19, a commentary

"I am afraid because this new strain strikes the young children," Duterte said late Monday. "They can glue their attention on TV the whole day."

The government had hoped easing restrictions on children might boost economic activity, after a year when growth is expected to have contracted 8.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent.

With nearly 515,000 coronavirus cases and more than 10,200 deaths, the Philippines is among the worst affected countries in Asia.

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Source: Reuters/dv