The Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed the presence of the Indian variant of COVID-19 in the Philippines in an online press briefing today (May 11).

According to the national health agency, they verified two cases of the coronavirus variant in the country after performing genome sequencing on samples taken from returning overseas Filipino workers.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the two positive samples came from a 37-year-old who arrived from Oman and a 38-year-old who came from the UAE.

Although many might find this concerning, the department’s Epidemiology Bureau Director Althea de Guzman assured that the individuals in question have since recovered from the virus. Both arrived in the country in April.

Apart from this, plane passengers who came into contact with both positive cases have tested negative for the variant. However, they’re still making sure whether the said close contacts were able to complete the required quarantine period.

“Yung ating dalawang kaso have been filed as recovered. They are currently asymptomatic,” she said.

“‘Yung mga passengers na kasama nila sa row ay nag-test negative na po. Inaalam din natin kung sila ay naka-kumpleto na ng quarantine,” de Guzman added.

De Guzman noted that both infectees had no record of traveling to India. She adds that the pair have returned to the countryside for further quarantine – one in Soccksargen and the other in Bicol.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Lead Maria Van Kerkhove, the B.1.617 variant from India is a mutated version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is more transmissible.

“There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of the B.1.617,” she announced to the press on Monday.

In the Philippines, a travel ban was imposed for foreign arrivals from India – from April 29 until May 14. Though the presence of the virus has been confirmed in the country, there’s still no word if the ban will be extended.

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