Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III said the arrival of a new coronavirus variant in the Philippines is inevitable, but added that the country is not defenseless against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). 

“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. Notwithstanding that we can also have our own variant here, that could happen in the Philippines. So, we just have to watch out for this,” Duque said during an interview on CNN Philippines.

“But at the end of the day, one major intervention is always compliance and adherence to the minimum health standards. Whatever is the variant, I think what’s important is for our people to understand that we are not defenseless… May laban po tayo dito,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte extended the travel ban on the United Kingdom and 19 other countries with reported cases of a new variant of the coronavirus. The ban will be effective December 30, 2020 to January 15, 2021.

Meanwhile, Duque said there is “no evidence yet” that this new variant has already reached the country.

The health chief also said that the Philippines has been able to “bring down and stabilize” the cases of Covid-19 in the past 10 months.

“Hopefully this will go down to [a] three-digit number of cases,” he said.

He advised the public not to be complacent even with the lower number of new cases in previous days.

“It is during the holiday season that people are less likely to have themselves tested… we will only find this out towards the end of the first week of January, what the real numbers would look like,” Duque said. RJ Espartinez