The Philippine government is exhausting all efforts to prevent the possible entry of the “double mutant” coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) variant first detected in India, Malacañang assured the public on Thursday.
“Well, at least we will take all steps to stop or prevent the entry of the double mutant variant,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser partly in Filipino.
Roque gave the assurance after five passengers from India who recently entered the country have tested positive for Covid-19.
Four of the Covid-19 patients with travel history from India are Filipinos, while the other one is a foreign national.
Their samples are currently being assessed to determine whether they can be subject to genomic sequencing which can check if they are carrying new Covid-19 variants, including the “double mutant” B.1.617 variant first reported in India.
Roque told the public not to worry since all travelers from India have complied with the 14-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing on their sixth or seventh day.
“The rule is they have to undergo strict quarantine in a facility for 14 days. So, we are confident that since they have been subjected to 14 days quarantine regardless of their RT-PCR test, we are able to prevent the entry of the Indian strain,” he said partly in Filipino.
Roque, however, acknowledged that there is no “absolute” guarantee that the B.16.17 variant would not be able to enter the country.
Roque issued the statement, as he cited the World Health Organization’s (WHO) advice to impose travel restrictions on areas with a “high traffic” of passengers from India, such as the Middle East.
“So,that’s our problem because we cannot stop our countrymen from the Middle East to return to the Philippines,” he said partly in Filipino.
He, nevertheless, said the government would do its best to stop the possible transmission of the “double mutant” coronavirus variant from India.
“It may not be an absolute guarantee that it cannot enter the country but we’re doing our best to contain it,” Roque said.
The Philippines has yet to record a case of the B.1.617 variant that carries two mutations, E484Q and L425R.
India’s health ministry said the mutations “confer immune escape and increased infectivity.”
The Philippines earlier suspended the entry of passengers from India from April 19 to May 14.
In a Palace memorandum issued on Wednesday, the Philippines expanded the travel ban to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.The travel restrictions imposed on four countries will start from May 7 and end on May 14. SOVEREIGNPH