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Saturday, Oct 31, 2020
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Descubren nueva cepa de virus mutado posiblemente más contagioso

New strain of mutated virus discovered is possibly more contagious

Southeast Asia is facing a strain of the new coronavirus that the Philippines – a country with the largest outbreak in the region – is studying to see, if the mutation makes it more infectious.

The strain, previously seen in other parts of the world and called D614G, was discovered in an outbreak of 45 cases in Malaysia that began with someone who returned from India and violated their 14-day home quarantine. The Philippines detected the strain among random samples of covid-19 in the largest city in its capital region.

The mutation could have a greater possibility of transmission, but we still don't have enough solid evidence to say that will happen, Philippine Undersecretary of Health María Rosario Vergeire said at a virtual press conference on Monday.

The mutation has been found in many other countries and has become the predominant variant in Europe and the United States, although the World Health Organization says there is no evidence that the strain leads to more serious disease. The mutation has also been detected in recent outbreaks in China.

There is no epidemiological evidence that the mutation is considerably more infectious than other strains, said Benjamin Cowling, chief of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong.

It is more commonly identified now than in the past, suggesting that it might have some kind of competitive advantage over other covid-19 strains, he noted.

Southeast Asian countries are taking a number of steps to prevent a resurgence while resuming a limited number of trips, and they must deal with people violating quarantine rules after returning from abroad and with false negative test results at borders.

The man who returned from India had tested negative when he arrived in Malaysia. He was later sentenced to five months in prison and fined for violating the quarantine.

Citizen cooperation

People should be cautious and take more precautions for this strain that has now been found in Malaysia, wrote the country's Health Director-General, Noor Hisham Abdullah, in a Facebook post, saying - without citing studies - that the strain can make it 10 times more infectious. The cooperation of people is very necessary so that together we can break the chain of infection of the mutation.

The strain could be a little more contagious. We still don't have enough evidence to assess that, but there is no evidence that it is much more contagious, said Cowling of the University of Hong Kong.

Noor Hisham cautioned that the strain could indicate the possibility that existing vaccine studies are incomplete or ineffective against the mutation, despite a report published in Cell Press that the mutation is unlikely to have a major impact on efficacy of the vaccines that are currently being developed.

While Malaysia has largely managed to avoid a resurgence of the virus that has affected other parts of the world, the number of new cases found in the country has been increasing. The country reported 26 new cases on Saturday, the highest number since July 28.

Confirmed cases in the Philippines have risen 76% since the end of July to a total of 164,474 as of Monday. The country surpassed Indonesia more than a week ago as the nation with the largest outbreak in Southeast Asia.

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