A woman transfers saliva to a vial for coronavirus disease saliva testing, at a laboratory in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila. Reuters
The Philippines has confirmed domestic transmission of the new, highly contagious British variant of the coronavirus, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to abandon a plan to allow some minors to go outside their homes.
“Right now, we have local transmission where this individual or these cases with the variant have already infected their community, their family,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told news channel ANC on Tuesday.
The world is scrambling to contain the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant, despite travel bans, new lockdowns and a tightening quarantine measures in dozens of countries, amid concerns it could not only be more transmissible, but deadlier.
The Philippine health ministry said the B.1.1.7 variant had spread among 12 people in Bontoc, a mountainous northern province, with 17 such cases in the country.
Its first case of the British variant was found in a Filipino who had travelled from the United Arab Emirates.
Citing the British variant, Duterte said he had scrapped a plan to allow children ages 10 to 14 in low-risk areas to go outside the home starting Feb. 1.
The Philippines, which has imposed some of the world's toughest coronavirus restrictions, including internal travel bans, has since March last year officially prohibited minors from leaving the home.
“I am afraid because this new strain strikes the young children,” Duterte said late Monday. “They can glue their attention on TV the whole day.”
The government had hoped easing restrictions on children might boost economic activity, after a year when growth is expected to have contracted 8.5%-9.5%.
With nearly 515,000 coronavirus cases and more than 10,200 deaths, the Philippines is among the worst affected countries in Asia.
President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte has approved the recommendation for the declaration of nationwide state of public health emergency as the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)) in the country has risen to six, two of whom have been classified as local transmission, his spokesman reported on Sunday.
Nations like France and South Korea began resuming face-to-face classes as they got their outbreaks under control, but Philippine authorities see the risk as too great. President Rodrigo Duterte said last month that even if students could not graduate, they needed to stay out of school to fight the spread of the disease.
The head of a Philippine online news site, among media agencies deemed critical of President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested again on Friday, this time over an alleged investment violation.
Lengthy pandemic school closures have cost students trillions of dollars in lifetime earnings, the World Bank and UN agencies said on Monday, warning that the crisis has worsened since last year.
The Iraqi Security Media Cell said in a post on its official account on Facebook: “With high professionalism and extensive intelligence work, the Federal Intelligence and Investigation Agency in the Ministry of Interior continues to perform its duties, as it was able to uncover a mysterious murder of a burnt and charred man of unknown identity and features, lying on the edge of a river in Al-Haritha district, Basra Governorate.”
Khawla Abdul Rahman Bin Hadda confirmed that the scholarship programmes for outstanding Emirati male and female students come within the framework of the directives of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, to support outstanding students, especially national service graduates.
Prof. Sarah Gilbert, one of the scientists behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, is warning that the next pandemic may more contagious and more lethal unless more money is devoted to research and preparations to fight emerging viral threats.