NBI help sought in locating two fellow passengers of Filipino with new COVID-19 variant
This photo shows the Department of Justice office in Faura, Manila.
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NBI help sought in locating two fellow passengers of Filipino with new COVID-19 variant

(Philstar.com) - January 22, 2021 - 12:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health has sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation in locating two persons who had contact with the man who tested positive on the new and more infectious coronavirus variant.

In a media forum on Friday, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have coordinated with the Department of Justice to tap the NBI in locating them.

“We will be providing these two names to the NBI through the DOJ today so we can find them, and it will be easier for them to locate [them] because of their database. So we will see if we can find them through this kind of process,” Vergeire said in a mix of English and Filipino.

As of Friday, health authorities have yet to locate two co-passengers of the 29-year-old Filipino who flew into the country via an Emirates flight last January 7.

Vergeire said the two have telephone numbers, but one is from abroad and the other passenger may have given a wrong number. “As to their addresses, they put in a barangay and city but the [house] number and street name was not provided,” she added.

The DOH earlier said there were 159 passengers in the said flight, and contact tracing started last week. However, the health department said some of the numbers given by the passengers were unattended or could not be reached. Calls were also rejected.

Vergeire said they are coordinating with national government agencies on how to improve their system so more accurate and complete details will be provided to the government, for contact tracing efforts.

In a presser last week, Vergeire stressed: “If a person does not cooperate with the government, there could be sanctions for this person, especially if he or she is included as one of the contacts. The risk of him or her spreading the disease is also present. They need to understand this and they have to cooperate with the government.”

Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act prohibits the non-cooperation of “persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern” as well as of “person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern.”

Those caught violating the law may be fined or imprisoned or both.

Latest data from the DOH said that 14 who have had contact with the UK coronavirus variant index case have been infected. Of these, flew in the same flight while six are close contacts of the index case.

Among his close contacts are four who were on board the same flight but tested negative upon arrival including his girlfriend, a household member and a health care worker. — Kristine Joy Patag

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