The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday confirmed a new variant of the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) first detected in the Philippines.

The DOH said the variant, named P.3, has 98 confirmed cases so far.

The P.3 variant contains “mutations of concern” previously detected in the Philippines. However, it is not yet proven that it is more transmissible and contagious or may adversely affect vaccine efficacy.

“Upon verification with the Phylogenetic Assignment of Named Global Outbreak Lineages (PANGOLIN), the said samples with these mutations have been reassigned to the P.3 variant, belonging to the B.1.1.28 lineage, to which the P.1(Brazil) variant also belongs,” the DOH said in a statement.

The DOH also said there’s no sufficient evidence that the public should be alarmed with the new variant. 

Earlier this year, the health department detected “mutations with potential clinical significance” for the N501Y and E484K, from Central Visayas. 

The Japan Ministry of Health announced on March 12 that it found a new coronavirus variant in one of its travelers who came from the Philippines.

Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) later on confirmed on its website that the sample of the traveler from the Philippines had “E484K and N501Y mutations from a SARS-CoV-2.”

“The potential public health impact from this variant strain shall be considered to be equivalent to those from known VOCs (variants of concern) as this variant strain shares the same mutations of concern with VOCs,” the NIID said.

“Thus, NIID recommends enhanced vigilance and border health measures to be implemented for this variant,” it added. Ronald dela Cruz