‘Double mutant’ strain fuelling India cases in Philippines

THE “double mutant” coronavirus variant currently wreaking havoc in India has reached the Philippines.

The country reported its first cases of the virulent strain yesterday, with health officials saying the B1617 variant was found in two Filipinos returning from the Middle East who had not been to India.

The World Health Organisation has classified B1617, first detected in India in October, as a “variant of global concern”, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.

Two Filipino seafarers, aged 37 and 58, who arrived in Manila from Oman and the United Arab Emirates in mid-April, were found to be infected with the variant.

In line with the Philippines’ travel rules, both were immediately quarantined upon arrival at the airport and tested positive for Covid-19 about a week later. They have since recovered and tested negative.The two men were not among 150 travellers from India who arrived in the Philippines from April 1 to April 30. Five of these travellers tested positive for the coronavirus, though from strains other than B1617.

Health officials have also been checking if 12 Filipino seafarers on board a container ship from India that docked in Manila four days ago were carrying the B1617 variant.

They all tested positive for Covid-19, with two needing critical care.

The Philippines is already wrestling with three Covid-19 variants from Britain, South Africa and Brazil, and a fourth one with a mutation unique to the country. — The Straits Times/ANN

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