MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the country’s health department called for stricter border controls to prevent the spread of the Lambda variant of the coronavirus.
Local health authorities have yet to detect the presence of the Lambda variant, which is classified as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said Tuesday.
“That’s why we need to monitor this because it might become a variant of concern. What are we going to do? We will continue implementing strict border control to ensure the variant will not enter the country through returning overseas Filipinos or overseas Filipino workers,” he said in a briefing.
Current border controls have been so far effective, Duque claimed as only 19 cases of the highly infectious Delta variant have been detected.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said there is no direct flights to and from the Philippines and Latin America. The Lambda variant was first detected in Peru in December 2020.
But he said Malacañang will “monitor the developments and we will act accordingly.”
‘Not enough evidence’
The Lambda variant is feared to be more transmissible than other forms of COVID-19. But Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, World Health Organization representative to the Philippines, said there is still not enough information to make that conclusion.
“Lambda at this point of time still remains a variant of interest. That doesn’t mean we’re not following it. We’re still studying it and it does not warrant classification as a variant of concern at this point of time,” Abeyasinghe said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.
A variant of concern is defined as one with increase in transmissibility, increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation, and decrease in effectiveness of public health measures or available diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.
The Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma variants present in the Philippines are classified as variants of concern.
Duque also said there is no evidence yet that the Lambda variant reduces protection offered by vaccines.
“All of our vaccines are effective thus far,” he said.