Concerns in PHL as new COVID “supervariant” B.1.1.529 detected in “green” territories South Africa, Hong Kong

High number of mutations of B.1.1.529 raise alarm bells, as PHL eases restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers from “green” countries starting Dec. 1


Slide presented during press briefing of acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Alexei Nograles on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 (Courtesy PCOO)


(Eagle News) – The Philippines is closely monitoring the developments in South Africa and in Hong Kong where a new variant of the COVID-19 virus has been detected, given the name B.1.1.529, which is found to have a “very high number of mutations, with a concern for predicted immune invasion and transmissibility.”

Health officials also stressed the importance of increased vigilance as this new COVID-19 “supervariant” has been detected in South Africa and Hong Kong which are both under the so-called “green” countries or territories.  The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) is not requiring facility-based quarantine anymore for fully vaccinated passengers, including foreign nationals, coming from green countries, including these two territories.

Starting December 1 until Dec. 15, the Philippines is set to allow the entry of fully vaccinated nationals of non-visa required countries under Executive Order 408 (series of 1960), citing Inter-Agency Task Force Resolution No. 150-A, subject to certain conditions.

Dr. Edsel Salvana, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, said that they are now closely monitoring developments on this newly detected COVID-19 variant in South Africa and Hong Kong.

“Sinusubaybayan po namin ito. Bagama’t di pa naman ito nagte-takeover tulad ng delta, Nakakabahala rin ang mutation na taglay nito,” he said.

-No time to be complacent-

Salvana said that the public should also not be complacent because of these developments, and should continue to observe minimum public health standards such as wearing of face masks, observing social distancing and frequent handwashing and sanitation of surroundings.

Dr. Ted Herbosa, adviser of the the National Task Force against Covid-19, said that scientists around the world are already sending alarm bells because of this new COVID-19 supervariant, the B.1.1.529.

The number of daily infections in Africa’s hardest-hit country has increased tenfold since the start of the month.

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was of “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it “a major threat”.

Virologist Tulio de Oliveira told a hastily called news conference that the COVID-19 variant has a “has a very high number of mutations” and with a concern for predicted immune invasion and transmissibility.

-Passenger influx expected as more OFWs to return home for holidays-

Dr. Herbosa, the NTF special adviser, said that it is concerning that this new COVID-19 variant has been detected even in neighboring Hong Kong, where many OFWs are working and are expected to arrive in the country for the holidays.

He noted that this COVID-19 super variant, B.1.1.529, could escape RT-PCR test, and escape some vaccines as well.

Scientists in South Africa say they have detected a new Covid-19 variant with multiple mutations, blaming it for a surge in infection numbers.
The variant, which goes by the scientific lineage number B.1.1.529, “has a very high number of mutations”. (Slide presentation of ulio de Oliveira, KRISP virologist, from the South Africa Department of Health)
Videographic illustrating how a virus mutates. (STÉPHANE KOGUC, JONATHAN STOREY / AFP VIDEOGRAPHICS / AFP)


May report na isang kaso na ganyan sa Hong Kong.  Naka-declare pa naman yan na green country, so hindi namin alam gaano katagal maprotektahan ang Pilipinas bago datnan tayo ng bagong variant na yan,” Herbosa pointed out in a PTV-4 interview.

Kaming mga doktor nagbabantay, nagsusubaybay at binababalaan namin ang mga kababayan natin na mas maging mapagbantay dahil halos 3 linggo na tayong mababa ang mga kaso,” he said.

Herbosa said that the people should not relax or be complacent.

He said that minimum public health standards should still be strictly observed.

He encouraged Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19 especially because of this new COVID-19 variant.

Presently, the IATF has not yet indicated that it would be removing South Africa and Hong Kong from green-listed countries and territories.

Under the present IATF guidelines, arriving fully vaccinated travelers from these green-listed countries and territories should have a negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin. Upon their arrival, they are no longer required to undergo facility-based quarantine, nor undergo an on-arrival RT-PCR test.


(Eagle News Service)