SIXTEEN additional cases of the new, more infectious COVID-19 variant have been reported by the Philippine Department of Health (DOH).
This brings the total number of B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 (UK variant) cases in the country to 17, following the first confirmed case detected on January 13.
“Following strengthened biosurveillance activities amid the detection of the first B.1.1.7 variant in the country last January 13, the Department of Health (DOH), UP-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) and the UP-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) today confirmed the detection of the B.1.1.7 variant in 16 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 17,” the DOH said in a statement.
“Of the additional 16 cases with B.1.1.7 variant detected, three have already recovered, 13 are active cases—three of which are asymptomatic and 10 are exhibiting mild symptoms,” the agency added.
Of the 16 additional cases, 12 came from Bontoc, Mountain Province.
“Of these 12 cases, seven are male and five are female. Three are aged below 18 years old and another three are above 60. Contact tracing was immediately initiated to contain the spread of the infection,” the DOH said.
Two other cases of the new COVID-19 variant are overseas Filipino workers who returned to the country from Lebanon on December 29.
“The cases were aboard Philippine Airlines flight PR 8661. The first case is a 64-year old female whose indicated local address is Jaro, Iloilo City. The patient was isolated in San Juan, Metro Manila and discharged on January 9,” reported the DOH.
“The other is a 47-year old Filipina whose reported local address is Binangonan, Rizal and was quarantined in New Clark City and discharged from isolation on January 13,” it added.
The remaining cases were detected from La Trinidad, Benguet and Calamba City, Laguna.
“Both have no known contact to any confirmed case or travel history from outside the country. One is currently admitted in a Benguet Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility, while the 23-year-old male in Laguna has been discharged after receiving a negative result on January 16,” the DOH said.
The Philippines’ first confirmed case of the new variant was a 29-year-old male resident of Quezon City who left for Dubai on Dec. 27, 2020 for business purposes and returned to the Philippines last Jan. 7 via Emirates Flight No. EK 332.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Monday, January 25, announced that 144 close contacts of the 12 cases in Bontoc have been identified.
According to her, 34 of the 144 contacts have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We had six where the UK variant was not detected. [They were] part of the batch that was [initially] processed. We are left with 28 more that we need to send for sequencing,” Vergeire told reporters.
Genomic sequencing is the process of analyzing the virus sample taken from a diagnosed patient and comparing it with other cases to see whether those who tested positive for COVID-19 have the new variant.
Vergeire also said that the authorities have identified the index case who arrived in the country from the UK on December 13.
The person arrived in Bontoc town on December 14, and attended a Christmas celebration as well as a local ritual on December 26.
Meanwhile, in La Trinidad, Benguet, 97 contacts of the UK variant case have been identified.
The DOH said that four household members of the patient also contracted COVID-19. However, it was not clear if the samples went through genome sequencing to determine the presence of the new variant.
The Health agency urged local government units to ensure strict monitoring and compliance to quarantine protocols in their respective localities.
“The DOH also reiterates that non-adherence and incorrect adherence to minimum public health standards (MPHS) are the drivers of transmission and mutation and therefore strongly urges the public to strictly and properly follow the MPHS in all settings,” the DOH added.