(Right) Dr. Ralph Flores of the city's contact tracing team and acting city information officer Richard Ligad; (left) city IATF spokesperson Atty. Norman Yap.

Local officials have confirmed that the South African COVID-19 variant, also known as the Beta variant, has been detected in Puerto Princesa City.

According to city Inter-Agency Task Force spokesperson Atty. Norman Yap, this is one of the reasons why they will no longer appeal for a lower quarantine classification after the national government announced that the city will remain under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

“Mayroon nang confirmation from the Philippine Genome Center na nandito na ang South African variant sa Puerto Princesa City. Kahapon lang natin natanggap ang report,” he said in a live briefing on Tuesday evening.

The patient carrying the Beta variant was reported to have been swabbed on June 1, but has since recovered, while their close contacts have been identified and cleared. They also did not have any travel history.

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“We don’t really know where this variant came from. But we have confirmation now na it’s here in the city,” Yap added.

The Beta variant, first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a variant of concern (VOC). This means that it has been proven to cause serious illness and is more transmissible that other variants. It was also proven to be more prevalent in young people with no underlying health conditions. Researchers posited that it may have emerged in either July or August 2020.

City residents urged to get vaccinated, take advantage of MECQ status

Yap added that apart from the discovery of the Beta variant, the city IATF also resolved to adapt the MECQ extension because the current healthcare system in the city is still overwhelmed by COVID-19 infections both in the city and the municipalities.

“Nine beds na lang ang available out of 87 dedicated to COVID patients sa ating mga ospital, at mataas pa rin ang mortality, tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang mga deaths. Kaya nagdesisyon na hindi na tayo mag-aapila [para sa lower quarantine classification],” said Yap.

He urged residents to take advantage of Puerto Princesa’s MECQ classification because this means that more vaccines have been allocated by the national government.

“Habang MECQ tayo, nasa priority tayo sa national government sa vaccination rollout. So samantalahin na ninyo, at sana dumami na ang magpapabakuna,” he added.

Dr. Ralph Flores, who is in charge of the city’s contact tracing efforts and was also at the live briefing, stated that getting vaccinated has been proven worldwide to be effective event against new COVID-19 variants. He urged the public as well to get vaccinated as long as there are supplies.

“Sa nakikita natin worldwide, kapag nagpabakuna tayo, mas nagkakaroon tayo ng protection sa virus. Sa Australia, nagkaroon ng superspreader event sa isang birthday party. 19 ang nagkasakit, anim ang hindi, at Delta variant pa ‘yon, ‘ong mas malala. Ang pinagkaiba ng 19 doon sa anim, ang anim ay nagpabakuna. Ang gusto kong iparating sa ating mga mamamayan, kung may tsansa na tayong magpabakuna, magpabakuna tayo,” said Flores.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.