PRRD wants another task force for new COVID-19 strain

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President Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing the creation of a new task force who will focus on monitoring developments on the newly detected COVID-19 variant in the United Kingdom.

“The government should create another task force ideally of medical persons na nakatutok sa bagong [who are focused on the new] strain,” he said during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Saturday.

The Philippine government enforced more travel bans as the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 reached other countries such as Northern Ireland, Singapore and France.

In the same meeting, Duterte approved the extension of the travel ban from the UK initially set until Jan. 1, for another two weeks.

On the other hand, experts do not recommend lockdowns again in case infections skyrocket again. Dr. Socorro Escalante, coordinator for the World Health Organization Western Pacific, said the government should focus on strengthening health measures instead.

“[T]he WHO recommendation for now is not to restrict travel but ensure public health interventions are in place and that the country is ready to mitigate any event that this new strain will come into the country,” said Escalante.

According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque, the new variant can spread faster compared to the variant that has already entered the Philippines. He added that there is still no evidence saying that the new variant is more virulent or can cause a more severe disease.

Duterte said the IATF and the medical experts should convene again on Dec. 28 and Jan. 3.