DOH-7 wants to know if ‘local variant’ behind rising cases in Cebu

By: Futch Anthony Inso, Morexette Marie B. Erram - CDN Digital | February 01,2021 - 05:33 PM

CEBU CITY, Philippines—The Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) wants to know if a mutation of the virus is causing the continued increase of new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases here.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson of DOH-7, said they are planning to conduct a ‘bio-surveillance’ to determine the existence of a local variant of SARS-CoV-2 in Cebu. 

“We are requesting for a bio-surveillance from the PGC (Philippine Genome Center) and from DOH central office to conduct sampling,” Loreche told reporters in a press briefing on Monday, February 1, 2021.

Recent changes in the outbreak’s dynamics prompted health officials here to check if SARS-CoV-2 present in Cebu has mutated, she said. 

These included recording a 70 percent increase in the number of COVID-infected children, and emergence of reinfected patients. 

“We have seen in our data-registry, that if you compare the same period of time between before and now, there is a rise in the number of children who are COVID positive,” said Loreche. 

Aside from infected children and reinfected patients, those who will be subject for the proposed bio-surveillance will be COVID-19 patients in clustered situations. 

The DOH-7 official added that an increase in the rate of transmission of COVID-19 in Cebu could mean higher chances for the virus to evolve. 

“The possibility that we might have a local variant is not far. Viruses like the SARS-CoV-2 have RNA (ribonucleic acid), are unstable, and change more often. The more it infects, the higher the possibility that it will mutate,” explained Loreche. 

Loreche, however, clarified DOH-7 cannot confirm or deny if the presence of another variant, the one discovered in the United Kingdom (U.K.), is already here in Cebu at this point. 

She added that they have not yet received the results of the samples from three COVID-19 patients suspected of being infected with the U.K. variant. 

But regardless of a confirmed presence of a mutated SARS-CoV-2, DOH-7 reiterated their reminders for the public to continue follow health protocols. 

“What really matters more here is the enforcement and compliance of our minimum health standards, which have been proven and tested to prevent the rapid spread of COVID,” Loreche said. 

Cebu recently experienced a ‘spike’ in the number of new COVID-19 cases. 

In its Philippine COVID-19 report dated January 28, 2021, researchers from OCTA Research Group highlighted that Cebu has become ‘a serious concern’ after discovering that its reproduction number reached 1.57, higher than the nationwide rate of 0.6 

Read: Experts: Cebu an ‘area of serious concern’ due to rise in COVID cases

While admitting that the figures are ‘bothersome’, Loreche assured the public again that the outbreak remained controllable, and authorities are prepared to respond to it. 

/bmjo

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TAGS: bio-surveillance, COVID-19 children, DOH-7, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, health concern, mutated, new variant, Philippine Genome Center, virus
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