THE Department of Health (DOH) 7 will continue to collect samples for biosurveillance to check the entire extent of the presence of Sars-CoV-2 mutations, or “mutations of concern” (MOC), in the region.
This, after the DOH central office with the University of the Philippines (UP) Philippine Genome Center (PGC) and UP National Institutes of Health, on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, announced that N501Y and E484K MOC were detected in three additional samples from the region following an enhanced genomic biosurveillance.
The DOH 7, however, earlier reiterated that viruses naturally undergo mutations to survive the environment or their host. These mutations occur as they reproduce both inside the human body and during transmission from one host to another.
In a Feb. 18 statement, the DOH said mutations accumulate over time and may have varying effects, but “not all mutations and variants necessarily cause negative effects.”
Variants, on the other hand, refer to a group of viruses that have similar set of mutations, the DOH said.
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH 7 spokesperson, said health authorities in the region met Saturday night, Feb. 20, and came up with action plans to address this development.
Aside from collecting additional samples for biosurveillance, she said they will also partner with private hospitals to transfer asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients to temporary treatment and monitoring facilities to reserve the Covid beds for moderate to severe to critically ill patients.
She said they will also work with their other partner agencies including the Department of Tourism; Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu; and the Bureau of Quarantine to accredit and identify hotels that can be used as isolation facilities for asymptomatic patients.
“In doing this, we continue to have our CCUR (critical care utilization rate) in the safe zone,” she said.
The DOH central office reported that an additional sample from Central Visayas which belonged to the last genome sequencing batch had both mutations, while two others from the 80 samples sent by the DOH 7 sequenced in the seventh batch also had both mutations.
It said that it is the 34th sample found with the two mutations.
Loreche, however, said they are still reconciling their data with their central office because as of their Feb. 18 data, the region only had 29 samples which had co-occurence of the E484K and the N501Y before the reported three additional samples with MOC.
“We are still reconciling and they haven’t released the actual line list,” she said.
She said those who tested positive for Covid-19 and whose samples were found with two MOC have been released after the mandatory 14-day quarantine. She said most of these cases were asymptomatic and/mild cases.
The DOH said an investigation is underway to aid in curbing transmission and that it is preparing to submit these new findings to the World Health Organization and the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data to help in ongoing global efforts to track and study these new and emerging genomic changes in Sars-CoV-2 (the virus causing Covid-19), which vaccine manufacturers can use to recalibrate vaccines and ensure efficacy against the disease.
The DOH also called on local government units (LGUs) where cases of MOC have been detected to closely monitor local situations and implement measures as needed such as localized lockdowns, active cases findings, immediate contact tracing and isolation or quarantine.
Loreche said they will ask LGUs to submit to DOH their respective action plans on Covid control in their areas.
“Strengthen visibility of persons in authority (police, military), to disperse clustering of persons that contribute to the spread of the virus,” she said.
On Sunday, the DOH 21 reported 1,888 new cases of infection, increasing the total case count in the country to 561,169.
The new cases also brought the total in the recent seven days from Feb. 15 to 21 to 11,993, a 1.07 percent increase from the previous seven-day count of 11,866.
In its case bulletin issued at 4 p.m. Sunday, the DOH also posted 20 additional mortalities, bringing the death toll from Covid-19 to 12,088.
There was a “mass recovery” of 9,737 on Sunday, an 11.2 percent decline from the previous Sunday’s 10,967 recoveries.
A “mass recovery” is reported every Sunday based on the DOH’s time-based recovery strategy, which declares patients who have had no symptoms in the last 14 consecutive days as recoveries.
The “mass recovery” reduced the number of active cases to 26,188, which comprised 4.7 percent of the total case count.
The positivity rate remained elevated at 6.3 percent over the 24-hour period ending noon of Saturday, Feb. 20, as 1,826 out of 29,084 samples tested positive for Sars-CoV-2.
For about a month now, Cebu City remained at the top of the list in terms of new cases of infection nationwide. As of Feb. 20, the DOH listed 2,426 new cases in the last 14 days by date of onset of illness.
Cebu Province still came in second, with 1,069 new cases in the last two weeks.
Other cities with a high number of new cases were Quezon City with 998, Manila with 802 and Davao City with 665.
The risk of falling ill with Covid-19 is also highest in Cebu City, which has the smallest population among these cities. For the period under review, more than 240 per 100,000 population in Cebu City contracted the disease.
Among the regions, the National Capital Region (NCR) continued to post the highest number of new cases, with 5,295 infections in the last 14 days, according to the DOH tracker.
It was followed by Central Visayas, which had 4,635 new infections in the same period.
The risk of contracting the disease is, however, higher in Central Visayas, where about 60 people per 100,000 population got infected compared to less than 40 sick people per 100,000 population in the NCR.
Other regions with the highest new cases in the same period were Calabarzon with 1,931, Central Luzon with 1,259 and Davao Region with 1,160.
Globally, around three million more were infected in the past week, increasing the total to 111 million. More than 2.46 million had died as of 2 p.m. Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Although the US saw a slowdown in cases, it remained at the top of the list with over 28 million infections, about a million more in the past week.
The Philippines remained in the 31st slot in terms of cumulative cases as of 2 p.m. Sunday.
Meanwhile, over 200 million doses of vaccines against Covid-19 have been administered worldwide and more than 35.2 million people have been fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins’ vaccination tracker. (WBS / MVI / SunStar Philippines)