The Integrated Provincial Health Office has detected “highly transmissible” new Covid-19 variants in two cities in Negros Oriental.

 Dr. Liland Estacion, assistant provincial health officer, reported Thursday that the Philippine Genome Center had detected the P3 variant, first found in March in various areas in the country, and the Alpha or the so-called UK variant, in the province.

 Estacion said the P3 or the “Theta” variant was detected from a Covid-19-positive patient from the capital Dumaguete City.

 The Genome Center said P3 results from at least two mutations and is more transmissible than the common Covid-19 strain. Transmission, Estacion said, still depended on a person’s immune system.

 Compared with the P3 variant, the Alpha variant detected in Tanjay City was “believed to be 40 to 80 percent transmissible,” Estacion said.

 The Department of Health in Central Visayas has ordered an investigation into the newly detected variants, as well as intensive tracing and swab testing of up to third-degree contacts.

 Estacion said the spike in Covid-19 infections in Dumaguete and Tanjay might be due to the new variants, but this would be determined after verifying and tracing contacts exposed to the patients infected with the P3 and Alpha variants. 

 Health officials, she admitted, were “alarmed” over the new variants, but said this was not the first time it happened among locals. Early this year, at least five returning overseas Filipinos and overseas Filipino Workers bound for Negros Oriental tested positive for the P3 variant in Manila, but were isolated upon arrival. 

 The Negros Oriental Medical Society and the Philippine College of Physicians Negros Oriental Chapter had theorized that a new variant could have manifested in the province based on the number and severity of Covid-19 patients needing hospitalization and intensive care, as well as cases resulting in death.  Ryan Sorote