13 co-passengers of COVID-19 variant patient canât be traced
According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, they already managed to coordinate with 146 of the 159 co-passengers.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

13 co-passengers of COVID-19 variant patient can’t be traced

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Thirteen co-passengers of the 29-year-old Filipino on a return flight from Dubai who contracted the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 may face sanctions if they will not cooperate with authorities.

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, they already managed to coordinate with 146 of the 159 co-passengers.

The passengers are undergoing quarantine in a facility, with others allowed to do home isolation after finding that their home met the standards for quarantine.

Two swab specimens have been collected from each of the 146 passengers – one for reverse transcription -polymerase chain reaction and one for genome sequencing.

However, she said 13 other passengers were either rejecting calls, not answering or phone was turned off. Others have given wrong telephone numbers.

Vergeire noted the passengers are bound to “cooperate with the government” under Republic Act 11332 or the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act” of 2019.

“This is the law on ‘notifiable diseases’ and this law stated that if there is a public health emergency, you need to cooperate with the government whether for quarantine, isolation, contact tracing and testing,” she added.

Under Section 10 of the law, non-cooperation is punishable with a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months or both.

During the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-CoronaVirus outbreak in 2012, the government had considered as close contacts those seated in the surrounding three rows of an infected person.

For the new variant of COVID-19, the government considers as close contacts everyone on Emirates flight EK 332 taken by the patient from Dubai.

Meanwhile, 10 contacts of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Cagayan – also infected with the COVID-19 UK variant – tested positive for the virus, but not for the UK variant.

Seventeen contacts of the same OFW in Manila were also tested and found positive for COVID-19, but had a viral load that was low so they were not subjected to genome sequencing.

At a press briefing, Vergeire said the swab samples taken from the 10 Cagayan contacts were subjected to genome sequencing by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC).

The PGC did not detect the new variant on the 10 Cagayan contacts who are all relatives of the patient.

Genome sequencing is being done on positive samples to determine if a new variant of COVID-19 is now in the country.

According to Vergeire, there are “many questions” on the samples from the Manila contacts who are all personnel of a manning agency visited by the migrant worker before she left for Hong Kong on Dec. 22 last year.

She noted one of the requirements for genome sequencing is for a person to have positive results with the RT-PCR test and their CT value should be less than 30.

“There are many questions. First, they had their contacts with the HK case a long time ago and they are housed by the manning agency in a dormitory,” the official added.

Aside from this, none of the personnel developed symptoms and their routine was dorm-office-dorm only.

Vergeire said the personnel were swab tested once again using another testing kit. The results showed of the 17 employees, only six were infected with COVID-19.

“We are evaluating the specimens… But definitely, they cannot be sequenced because of low CT value,” she added.

Tuguegarao lockdown

In Tuguegarao, Mayor Jefferson Soriano placed the City Commercial Center under lockdown after over a hundred close contacts were identified to have engaged with a trader who tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday.

The city logged 50 new cases of COVID-19 in the past three days.

In Ilagan, Isabela, Mayor Jose Marie Diaz said three more barangays in the city were placed under zonal lockdown following a surge of new cases in the past seven days.

Diaz earlier placed five barangays under containment zone when it logged at least 90 cases from Jan. 7 to 13.

On Thursday, 24 new cases were reported, bringing the total number to 170 COVID-19 cases recorded in the city since Jan. 1.

The mayor attributed the surge of cases to vacationing residents from critical areas and the gathering of people during the holiday season.– Raymund Catindig

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