WHO Philippines vows to monitor Lambda variant

July 7, 2021 - 6:25 PM
People wearing masks for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pass a mural dedicated to healthcare workers, in Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, October 30, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo)

Lambda, also known as the C.37 coronavirus variant that has been concerning several countries, remains to be a “variant of interest,” a World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Philippines said on Tuesday.

In an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that the WHO is still studying the emergence of the new variant and “it has not demonstrated characteristics that will warrant its classification as a variant of concern.”

Abeyasinghe said the Lambda variant originated in June 2021 in Brazil, where the Gamma or P.1 variant also emerged.

However, in WHO data, it was reported that the new variant came from Peru.

“We know that it emerged in June of 2021 in Brazil. It is present in several countries, I believe about 20 to 30 countries now,” the health representative said.

“We have multiple expert groups that are starting to follow that virus and studying that virus (C. 37 variant), both within WHO and externally with our partners, so that we can better understand that virus (C. 37 variant),” Abeyasinghe added.

Meanwhile, Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said that Lambda is believed to be more transmissible, and may affect the efficacy rate and a person’s reaction to antibody treatments.

“If you talk about a variant that is highly transmissible, then that will be responsible for surge of cases and hospitalizations. Most likely for those vulnerable, that can also be higher risk of mortality,” Solante told CNN Philippines.

Despite this, Abeyasinghe said that evidence is still not enough to prove that Lambda is deadlier than the Delta variant.

In a situational report of WHO in June, it said that the variant has been associated with “substantive rates of community transmission.” Despite being classified as a variant of interest only on June 15, it has spread to at least 29 territories.

As of writing, there are still no recorded cases of Lambda variant in the Philippines, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

“Batay po sa submission ng Philippine Genome Center, wala pa po tayong natukoy o nadiskubre na C.37 variant,” he said in a press briefing.

The health chief also called for stricter border control to help the Philippines repulse from the Lambda variant.

Malacañang also allayed the public’s fears and advised them not to worry about the new variant for there are no direct flights from South Africa to the Philippines.