KUCHING: A Covid-19 variant previously reported in the Philippines has been detected in Sarawak, according to Universiti Malaysia Sarawak's Institute of Health and Community Medicine (IHCM).
A report prepared by IHCM director Prof David Perera (pic) indicated that the P3 variant was detected in eight out of 484 samples analysed in its genomic surveillance study.
"This P3 variant is characterised by two key mutations, the E484K mutation shared with the B.1.351 variant (South African variant) and the N501Y mutation shared with the B.1.1.7 variant (UK variant).
"These mutations have been associated with immune escape from both vaccine-induced and natural infection protection, and greater transmissibility," Prof Perera said in a statement on Friday (April 30).
Designated a variant of interest, the P3 variant was first reported in the Philippines in March and was recently identified in imported cases in Britain.
IHCM has been tracking variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, circulating in Sarawak and has completed genomic sequencing of 484 samples.
Prof Perera, a member of the Sarawak Covid-19 vaccine advisory group, said uncontrolled intense transmission of the virus would lead to the emergence of more variants that could affect vaccine efficacy and possibly the severity of the disease.
He said the continuous evolution of new variants strongly underlined the need for the public to continue adhering to standard operating procedures (SOP), particularly wearing masks, practising hand hygiene and observing physical distancing, as well as achieving herd immunity through vaccination.
"These efforts will help slow virus transmission and reduce the chance of future variants evolving in the community," he said.