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DOH eyes new protocols for arriving travellers
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reported that DOH has recommended the mandatory re-swabbing of all travelers five days from arrival in the country, considering that COVID-19’s incubation period is between five to 14 days.
The STAR/KJ Rosales, file

DOH eyes new protocols for arriving travellers

Janvic Mateo, Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) is considering a second swab test for all travelers arriving from abroad after more close contacts of the country’s first case of COVID-19 UK variant tested positive for the mutation.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reported that DOH has recommended the mandatory re-swabbing of all travelers five days from arrival in the country, considering that COVID-19’s incubation period is between five to 14 days.

Under existing protocol, travelers are required to undergo RT-PCR test upon arrival at the airport and a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“We recommended to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) the appropriate timing of test and this will be presented for discussion later,” Vergeire said during the Laging Handa public briefing yesterday.

DOH Epidemiology Bureau medical specialist Alethea de Guzman defended the proposal to re-swab travelers to ensure that they don’t have the virus.

“We need border control to ensure that virus will not enter into the community. Our recommendation is a gatekeeping mechanism,” De Guzman explained.

Yesterday, the DOH also reported that one more co-passenger of the 29-year-old real estate agent from Dubai tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of close contact infections to 14.

Except for two co-passengers, the DOH said that all close contacts of the index case have been traced and subjected to swabbing and close monitoring.

“Based on evidence we have, given that we are not seeing case surges in areas she visited or those that mimic having case of UK variant and no UK variant was detected among close contacts, it is most likely the infection wasn’t picked up here,” De Guzman pointed out.

First UK variant patient ‘nearly recovered’

Meanwhile, an official from the Quezon City government said that the country’s first case of the COVID-19 UK variant has “nearly recovered.”

Quezon City epidemiology and surveillance unit head Rolly Cruz confirmed the update, saying that they are waiting for advice on whether the patient has to extend quarantine. “We are just waiting for guidance from the Department of Health if he still needs to extend his quarantine period to ensure he will no longer be infectious,” he said.

The government is currently investigating how the patient’s mother contracted the illness, while no other immediate member of the family tested positive for the virus. The mother’s swab sample was sent to the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) to determine if she has the regular COVID-19 virus or the more infectious UK variant.

“We are already investigating how the mother of our UK variant case got infected with COVID-19, since the index case never set foot at home or in the community and did not have any interaction with her after arriving in the Philippines from Dubai on January 7,” said Cruz.

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