THE GOVERNMENT plans to block Sabah visitors seeking to enter Sulu province in the Philippine south after a reported case of a mysterious virus in the Malaysian region.

“We will also ban the movement of people from Sabah to Sulu,” Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana told a televised Cabinet meeting on Saturday.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte called for a Cabinet meeting at the weekend to discuss the new variant of the coronavirus first detected in the United Kingdom.

A suspected case of the virus was reported in Sabah, but experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) said this was different from the UK strain.

Sulu officials sought help from the National Government after reports of the new virus in the Malaysian region that the Philippines claims as its territory.

Socorro Escalante, WHO coordinator for essential medicines and health technologies, said at the meeting the mutation found in Sabah was not the same as the UK variant but was another mysterious coronavirus variant found in South Africa, Australia and the Netherlands.

“We do not yet know what is the significance of this mutation and what are the implications in terms of the public health system,” she said. — Gillian M. Cortez