DOH: 13 who had contact with Filipino with new variant test positive for COVID-19
Airline ground staff (L) wearing protective gear work at the counter at the airport in Manila on August 4, 2020.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

DOH: 13 who had contact with Filipino with new variant test positive for COVID-19

(Philstar.com) - January 20, 2021 - 1:44pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:05 p.m.) — Thirteen people who came in contact with the country’s first confirmed case of the more contagious variant of the coronavirus have tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health said Wednesday. 

Ten passengers who were on the same flight as the 29-year-old real estate agent from Dubai to Manila on January 7 tested positive for the disease, the DOH said in a release.  

Eight of them—all Filipino citizens—tested positive upon their return to Manila and were immediately transferred to isolation facilities. They are scheduled to be re-swabbed before Thursday. 

“All eight co-passengers are in stable condition and will remain under strict monitoring while completing isolation and while waiting for results of re-swabbing. Contact tracing also showed that the eight cases had no close contact when they arrived, and infection and control practices were strictly observed by personnel who attended to the said cases,” the department said.

Close contacts

The DOH said there were five close contacts of the index case who recently tested positive. 

These include his girlfriend who accompanied him in Dubai but tested negative upon arrival and two other passengers of Emirates flight EK332 who also initially tested negative. 

The case’s mother was also found to be positive for the disease. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the cycle threshold (CT) value of the sample of the index case’s mother is more than 30, which indicates a low viral load.

A healthcare worker from Quezon City who attended to the case also tested positive for COVID-19. But Vergeire said the person was a recovering patient already.

“We all know the remnants of the virus can stay and can still be detected after eight weeks,” she said.

The DOH said samples from all five close contacts who were found positive have been sent to the Philippine Genome Center for sequencing. The department is now waiting for the results to determine if they are also infected with the B117 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom. 

“All close contact are currently isolated and under strict monitoring,” the department said. 

Vergeire also said that of the 213 contacts of the index case, six have yet to be located by authorities. The department earlier warned that the contacts of the real estate agent may face fines or imprisonment if they fail to cooperate.

The country’s first case of the COVID-19 variant that originated in the UK is in stable condition.

Preliminary estimates find the B117 variant between 30% and 70% more contagious than other forms of the virus. But there is no evidence that the variant is more deadly than others. 

Experts warned that an increase in the transmission of the new variant will lead to more people getting infected and sick, which can overwhelm the country's health system anew. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 2, 2021 - 8:25am

A thread on new variants of SARS-CoV-2 reported in the Philippines.

March 2, 2021 - 8:25am

The DOH reports two additional samples from Central Visayas with both N501Y and E484K mutations.

Meanwhile, two cases from the region previously reported to have the mutations have been delisted. The total of these mutations in the country remain at 34 cases.

"Despite the arrival of vaccines and the successful initial vaccination activities, the DOH emphasizes that adherence to minimum public health standards is still the best course of action to prevent community transmission and further virus mutations," the DOH says.

March 2, 2021 - 8:21am

The Department of Health reports 30 additional cases with B.1.1.7 variant, first seen in the United Kingdom, in the country. This brings the total cases in the country at 87.

Of the new cases detected in the latest genome sequencing batch, 20 are returning overseas Filipinos, three are local cases and seven are currently being verified.

The 20 detected returning Filipinos came from the Middle East, Singapore and the United States. Thirteen of them are asymptomatic active cases while seven have recovered.

March 2, 2021 - 8:11am

The Philippines joins 47 other countries with reported cases of the B.1.351 variant, which was first detected in South Africa, the Department of Health confirms Tuesday.

The DOH confirms six cases of the variant — three local cases, two returning overseas Filipinos and one still being verified.

"While there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease, the pattern of mutations within this variant suggests higher transmissibility and may have an impact on vaccine efficacy," the DOH says.

February 15, 2021 - 12:37pm

The Department of Health says one of the additional COVID-19 cases positive for the more infectious variant is linked to the MRT-3 cluster.

The patient is the mother of an employee. —  Gaea Katreena Cabico

January 31, 2021 - 9:15am

The Philippine Genome Center did not detect the B117 variant of the coronavirus, which first emerged in the United Kingdom, in 48 samples for its fourth batch of sequencing, the Department of Health says Saturday night.

The samples came from the National Capital Region (23), Calabarzon (19), Cordillera Region (4) and from returning overseas Filipinos (2). Seven of these cases are already recovered, while the rest are either asymptomatic or mild cases.

"While no new cases have been detected, the DOH reiterates that the minimum public health standards remain the best precautionary measure against COVID-19 infection regardless of the variant," the DOH says.

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