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CDC pushed amid new COVID-19 variants

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A PHILIPPINE senator on Wednesday pushed the creation of a Center for Disease Control (CDC) after the Health department detected cases of the FLiRT coronavirus variant and Omicron subvariants in the country this week.

“We are pushing for the establishment of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen our preparation to respond to crises such as pandemics and other illnesses,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said in a statement.

The Department of Health (DoH) on Tuesday said it had detected a variant believed to have spurred COVID-19 infection waves in other countries including Singapore.

It has detected two cases of KP.2, 30 cases of JN.1, and two cases of JN.1.18, citing recent sequencing data from the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center.

KP.2 and KP.3 variants, which are both descendants of JN.1, are nicknamed in other countries as “FLiRT” to describe amino acid changes in the COVID-19 virus spike protein.

Philippine regions were at low risk from COVID-19, it said in a statement, adding that the new variants under monitoring continue to be “clinically mild and manageable.”

Mr. Gatchalian earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1869, which seeks to create a Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that will oversee and monitor public health threats and boost epidemiology research in the country.

It will also determine whether a public health emergency should be declared an epidemic.

The bill is pending on second reading at the Senate, while the House of Representatives passed its version in 2022.

Basil Rodriques, health advisor at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) East Asia and Pacific Regional Office has said the agency would boost the Philippines’ integration into global health surveillance systems. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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