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.