As the world watches B.1.1.529 (most likely to be called Nu Variant) in harried anticipation, the Health Agency reports 863 new cases based on close to 39,000 tests done last November 24 with a positivity of 2.5%. Active cases remain stagnant as more cases than recoveries are reported today.
An additional 142 deaths were announced, bringing the cases past the 48,000 mark.
B.1.1.529 emanated from Botswana and was identified on November 9. It has spread to its neighboring country South Africa, which is now seeing a 10-20 fold rise in cases from its low triple digit numbers. Aside from South Africa, it has also been reported in Hong Kong (from a traveler from South Africa) and lately in Israel and Belgium. Because of this new variant (which has not been classified as concern or interest) there is a need to speed up the vaccination process and protect the borders of the country as South Africa and Hong Kong are currently classified by the IATF as “green country”, allowing travelers from these nations to arrive locally with no quarantine being required. There needs to be an immediate shift in policies with this information being driven by concern from various nations.
Only NCR recorded triple digits today with 183 cases or 21% of the total share of the national cases today. The rest of the regions in the country report double digits.
Isabela, however, had the most cases among provinces. Nevertheless, all provinces report double numbers today.
On an LGU level, 11 of 17 LGUs in NCR are in the top 20 as the number of cases in the country ease down. Not one LGU in the top 20 list had more than 50 cases, including Quezon City. The least cases in the list was down to 7 – meaning if your LGU reported 7 cases, it would be included in the top 20.
B.1.1.529 – what do we know so far?
- It contains 32 spike protein mutations implying that the current vaccines available may not be as protective as with other variants of concern in the past. Mutations on the spike are potentially more problematic in that it can evade immunity and increased transmissibility. As to whether it can cause more severe disease is unknown.
- Because of the high number of mutations, the nature of this variant may have come from a chronically ill individual where the coronavirus had survived and allowed to mutate to this extent. Because HIV is predominantly seen in Africa, it is possible that this mutation had emanated from someone with this illness.
- So far, the global cases are low. With 3 being reported in Botswana (all fully vaccinated), 53 in South Africa and two in Hong Kong (from travelers from South Africa). (update: Israel and Belgium have reported cases as well)
- The World Health Organization has classified this variant as a variant under monitoring last Wednesday and are meeting to weigh in on the impact of this new variant. (update: the WHO has classified this as a Variant of Concern and is now designated as Omicron)