Coronavirus has already taken a heavy toll on life all across the globe. The virus doesn’t seem to be in any mood to slow down with speculation that Southeast Asia facing a new strain of Covid-19.
This new strain has emerged in Philippines and is called D614G. It was earlier seen in a small cluster of about 45 cases in Malaysia and started from someone who had returned from India and breached his 14-day home quarantine protocol.
Philippines have detected this strain among random Covid-19 samples in the largest city of its capital region.
“The mutation is said to have a higher possibility of transmission or infectiousness, but we still don’t have enough solid evidence to say that that will happen,” Philippines’ Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual briefing on Monday (August 17).
It is believed that the strain has been found in many other countries and has become the predominant variant in Europe and the US, with the World Health Organization (WHO) saying there’s no evidence the strain leads to a more severe disease.
Head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong Benjamin Cowling believes there is no evidence from the epidemiology that the mutation is more infectious than other strains.
“It’s more commonly identified now than it was in the past, which suggests that it might have some kind of competitive advantage over other strains of Covid-19,” Benjamin Cowling was quoted as saying by Bloomberg on Tuesday (August 18).
The man who returned from India had tested negative when he arrived in Malaysia. He has since been sentenced to five months in prison and fined for breaching quarantine.
“People need to be wary and take greater precautions because this strain has now been found in Malaysia,” Philippines’ Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah wrote in a Facebook post.
Noor Hisham Abdullah added that the strain can make it 10 times more infectious without citing a study.
“The people’s cooperation is very needed so that we can together break the chain of infection from any mutation,” Noor Hisham Abdullah’s post read.
“The strain might be a little bit more contagious. We haven’t yet got enough evidence to evaluate that, but there’s no evidence that it’s a lot more contagious,” Benjamin Cowling felt.
Noor Hisham Abdullah has warned that the strain could mean existing studies on vaccines may be incomplete against the mutation.
However a paper published in Cell Press said the mutation is unlikely to have a major impact on effectiveness of vaccines currently being developed.
While Malaysia has largely managed to prevent a new wave of Covid-19, the number of new cases in the country are on the rise again. The country reported 26 new cases on Saturday, the most since July 28.
Confirmed cases in the Philippines have surged 76% from the end of July to a total of 164,474 as of Monday. It overtook Indonesia more than a week ago to become the country with the largest outbreak in Southeast Asia.