The Philippines has detected its first two cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India, the Health department said on Tuesday, May 11.
The World Health Organziation has classified the coronavirus variant, known as B.1.617, as a variant of global concern with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.
The variant had been confirmed in two Filipino seafarers who returned in April from the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
“We need to continually monitor what other variants we may be able to detect locally, as well as monitor the spread of the variants we have already detected,” said Alethea De Guzman, director of the epidemiology bureau of the Health department.
De Guzman said the seafarers were isolated on their return and had both recovered.
In a bid to prevent the entry of variants, the Philippines has temporarily barred travelers coming from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh from entering the country.
Indonesia and Malaysia this month reported the first cases of the B.1.617 coronavirus variant.
The Philippines has also previously recorded cases of a variant first detected in Britain and another first discovered in South Africa, as well as a homegrown P.3 variant.
With 1.1 million infections and 18,620 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases and casualties in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.
On Tuesday, the country recorded 4,734 new COVID-19 cases while 7,837 were reported to have recovered and 59 died.