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 22, 2021 - 12:43pm

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

March 22, 2021 - 12:43pm

New variants of COVID-19, such as those first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa, have been detected in all Metro Manila cities.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire says the variants have contributed to the spike in the number of cases in the capital region.

March 17, 2021 - 9:28am

COVID-19 variants first detected in the Philippines have reached the United Kingdom.

In its latest update, Public Health England announces it has identified two cases of the variant P.3 in England.

"One of the cases is linked with international travel and the other is currently under investigation. All appropriate public health interventions are being undertaken," it says.

March 13, 2021 - 11:05am

The Department of Health detects the first case of coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil.

The health department also detects 59 more cases of the coronavirus variant first seen in the UK and 32 more cases of the variant first seen in South Africa.

March 5, 2021 - 1:26pm

The Department of Health reports 52 additional cases B.1.351 variant (South Africa variant) cases and 31 more cases of the B.1.1.7 variant (UK variant) in the country.

Among the latest batch of samples sequenced by the UP-Philippine Genome Center, there are also 42 new cases with mutations in Central Visayas.

"The DOH and its concerned Centers for Health Development is coordinating with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and Local Government Units (LGUs) in NCR and Region 7 to institute measures to contain further transmission of these variants and mutations," the DOH says.

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.

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