Mon, 21 Jun 2021

MANILA, May 15 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines confirmed on Saturday the detection of 10 additional cases of the new COVID-19 variant first detected in India, bringing the total number of such cases in the country to 12.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the B.1.617 variant was found in the samples taken from a seafarer that arrived from Belgium via the United Arab Emirates on April 24. The patient has completed his isolation on May 13.

The DOH said the variant was also detected in the samples taken from the nine crew members of MV Athens Bridge, a container vessel from India operated by an all-Filipino crew.

The vessel left India on April 22 and then made a stop in Malaysia. When it arrived in Vietnam on May 1, it was found that 12 of the 21 Filipino crew members tested positive for COVID-19.

"Four of the nine B.1.617 cases remain admitted at a hospital in Manila and are currently in stable condition, while the other five are currently in an isolation facility," the DOH added.

The DOH said that samples taken from the three other crew members "were not eligible for sequencing." Nevertheless, the DOH noted these three crew members remain in an isolation facility.

The Philippines also reported on May 11 the detection of the B.1.617 variant in two seafarers that arrived from Oman and the United Arab Emirates last month.

With the detection of the B.1.617 variant, there are now altogether four variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the Philippines. The WHO classified the B.1.617 as "a variant of concern at a global level," citing "some available information to suggest increased transmissibility."

The Philippines has banned international arrivals from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates until May 31 amid concerns over the new variant.

The Philippines now has 1,138,187 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 19,051 deaths.

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