NEW VARIANT. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañan Palace on Thursday (Jan. 6, 2022). Duterte expressed concerns over the new B.1.640.2 lineage or the IHU Covid-19 variant, saying it will enter the country "whether we like it or not." (Presidential photo by Robinson Niñal)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday expressed concerns over the new B.1.640.2 lineage or the IHU Covid-19 variant, saying it will enter the country "whether we like it or not."

“Meanwhile, another variant has also been reported in the so-called IHU variant which was first detected in France last November. Dadating rin ito (It will enter the country). Whether we like it or not, dadating ‘to (it will come),” Duterte said during his Talk to the People.

Experts say the IHU variant, which was first detected in France, has 46 mutations.

"We will just have to deal with the rising cases of infection sa originally it was a Covid-19, then it to connect with the Delta and then itong ngayong bago Omicron tapos may reported case of a new variant emerging in the countries of Europe, yung IHU (this new Omicron variant and now there are reported cases that a variant emerging in the countries of Europe called IHU)," He said.

Duterte also expressed concern about the drastically increasing number of active cases in the country in a short period of time.

He noted that from around 5,400 new cases on Jan .4, the active cases ballooned to more than 17,200 on Jan. 6.

"More than tripled in just a period of two days. That is how the problem galloped in our community, in our country, and in the world," he said.

Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the Department of Health (DOH)-Technical Advisory Group, said the IHU variant is "not yet an official variant of concern nor interest" but a variant under monitoring.

The World Health Organization (WHO), he added, has been monitoring the variant since November last year.

Salvana said while the IHU variant has many mutations, it does not show any survival advantage or immune evasion that can be seen in Delta and Omicron variants.

“It’s a variant that is being monitored but it is not yet as concerning as Omicron or Delta or even the other ones po like ‘yung Alpha, Beta, at Gamma,” Salvana said.

He said the WHO sees the IHU variant "is not a threat at this time."

The WHO also concluded that it was "too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant."

He added the mutations do not always mean increased infectivity or vaccine deviation.

Salvana said while the health authorities in the Philippines will continue to monitor the IHU variant, their attention right now will focus on the Delta and Omicron "because this is really making havoc all over the world."

Covid-19 vaccines, he said, “significantly" protect against severe disease and give booster shots as an added protection.

The vaccines also decrease infectiousness and risk of mutations, he added. (PNA)