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UPDATE 2-Philippines detects Indian variant as daily COVID-19 cases near 8-week low

GlobalMay 11, 2021 17:50
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© Reuters

* Two Filipino seafarers have recovered from Indian variant
* WHO has called B.1.617 a "variant of concern"
* Cases, deaths retreat from peak in April

(Recasts lead, adds details on daily COVID-19 cases)
By Neil Jerome Morales
MANILA, May 11 (Reuters) - The Philippines has detected its
first two cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in
India, its health ministry said on Tuesday, even as confirmed
daily COVID-19 infections fell to a near eight-week low.
The World Health Organization 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, Alethea De Guzman, director of the ministry's
epidemiology bureau, told a news conference
"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," De Guzman said, adding that
the seafarers were isolated on their return and had both
recovered.
Separately, the health ministry reported on Tuesday 4,734
new coronavirus infections, the lowest single-day tally since
March 17, bringing total cases to more than 1.11 million.
The number of daily infections in the Philippines, which is
battling one of the worst outbreaks in Asia, has fallen from a
peak of 15,310 on April 2, but has stayed above the daily
average of roughly 1,700 cases for 2020.
The drop in cases, if sustained, will buoy hopes that
tougher restrictions imposed on March 29 will be relaxed to help
the economy, which contracted 4.2% in the first quarter.
In a bid to prevent the entry of variants, the Philippines
has temporarily barred travellers 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.
The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19
cases and casualties in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.

UPDATE 2-Philippines detects Indian variant as daily COVID-19 cases near 8-week low
 

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