THE pregnant woman who is the country’s first case of the Lambda variant of Covid-19 never travelled abroad, an indication that she was infected by someone in her community, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Monday the 35-year-old patient came from a cluster of cases in Western Visayas.

She tested positive for Covid-19 on July 22 and genome sequencing further revealed that she was infected with the Lambda variant, Vergeire said in a television interview.

Vergeire said backtracing has begun to determine the patient’s close contacts, which could be someone who had recently returned to the Philippines after travelling abroad.

The World Health Organization classifies Lambda as a “variant of interest,” meaning that further investigation is being done to determine just how potent it is.

“[Posibleng] mataas po ang kanyang transmissibility and according to evidence, it is comparable to the Delta variant, at nakakaapekto rin sya sa immunity ng isang tao (There is a possibility that the variant is highly transmissible and according to evidence, it is comparable to the Delta variant…. It can also affect your immunity if you are previously infected with Covid-19 virus,” Vergeire said.

Lambda was first detected in Peru in December 2020 and is said to have been responsible for a Covid-19 surge in Latin America.

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana said the Lambda variant has mutations that could diminish the efficacy of some vaccines, but people should worry more about catching the Delta variant.

Vergeire said Delta has been detected in all the regions except Caraga.

For the third straight day, the daily Covid-19 caseload breached the 14,000-mark with 14,610 new cases reported on Monday.

Infections now total 1.76 million.

The positivity rate was 23 percent, meaning for 58,471 tests conducted, 13,448 were positive for the virus.

Nearly 98 percent of all active cases remain mild, moderate or asymptomatic.

Recoveries surged to 1.62 million, and the deaths numbered 30,366.

With the continuing rise in Covid cases, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the government is studying the possibility of extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila.

Roque said on Monday the effectiveness of the lockdown can only be gauged after the end of the 14-day lockdown period.

Metro Manila is under ECQ until August 20.

Dr. Alethea de Guzman, director of the DoH epidemiology bureau, said the agency needs to assess the impact of a lockdown extension on the economy.

Dr. Norberto Francisco, spokesman for the Lung Center of the Philippines, a Covid-19 referral hospital, said he is for extending the lockdown, but added, “This is purely on the medical aspect.”

Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, said it was time to admit that a lockdown “is not the remedy.”

Roque said a decision concerning Metro Manila’s ECQ could be reached by Thursday.