The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases has established a technical working group that will monitor and identify the emergence of new coronavirus variants in the country.

The panel of experts will provide policy recommendations to the IATF on how to address the new variants.

It will be headed by Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire with Philippine Council for Health Research and Development Executive Director Jaime Montoya as co-chair.

The creation of the technical working group was in compliance with an earlier directive by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Other members of the panel include:

  • Dr. Anna Ong-Lim of the Department of Health (DOH) Technical Advisory Group (TAG)
  • Dr. Marissa Alejandria of the DOH TAG
  • Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana of the DOH TAG
  • Dr. Celia Carlos of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine
  • Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-de la Paz of the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health
    Dr. Cynthia Saloma of the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center
  • Dr. John Wong of Epimetrics

To prevent the new coronavirus strain from reaching the Philippines, the country imposed a travel ban on 21 countries, including US, UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada and Spain until Jan. 15.

However, Hong Kong authorities on Jan. 5 announced that the new coronavirus variant was detected in a passenger who returned from Manila on Dec. 22.

On Wednesday, the DOH said the coronavirus variant had yet to be detected in the Philippines.

The country has tallied 480,737 Covid-19 cases as of Jan. 6. John Ezekiel J. Hirro