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DOH: 34 contacts of Bontoc cases also positive for COVID-19
Satellite image shows Bontoc town in Mountain Province.
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DOH: 34 contacts of Bontoc cases also positive for COVID-19

(Philstar.com) - January 25, 2021 - 3:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — At least 34 contacts of the patients in Bontoc, Mountain Province who were found to have the more contagious variant of COVID-19 tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health said Monday.

In a briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said authorities have identified 144 close contacts of the 12 residents who were found with the B117 variant and tested some of them. Of the figure, 34 tested positive for COVID-19.

“We had six where the UK variant was not detected. [They were] part of the batch that was [initially] processed. We are left with 28 more that we need to send for sequencing,” Vergeire said in a message to reporters.

Genomic sequencing analyzes a sample taken from a diagnosed patient and compares it with others. It is used to check for the presence of the new variant. 

The index case in Bontoc was an overseas Filipino worker who returned from the United Kingdom in December and tested negative on arrival. The person went home to Bontoc the next day and stayed with relatives.

Vergeire said the person attended a Christmas celebration and a local ritual on December 26. The case started showing symptoms on December 29.

The incubation period of COVID-19—or the time between exposure to the virus and onset of symptoms—is from five to six days on average but it can be as long as 14 days.

Of the patients from Bontoc with the new COVID-19 variant, three are minors and another three are above 60 years old.

The health official added the agency has also monitored three clusters of COVID-19 infections in the mountain town in Bontoc. She said, however, that the details are “not definite.”

“I guess what happened in Bontoc ... is a very good example on how fast this disease spreads,” Vergeire said in Filipino.

Five villages in Bontoc were placed under lockdown due to the threat of the new COVID-19 variant.

La Trinidad case

Vergeire said authorities have also traced 97 contacts of a patient from La Trinidad in Benguet.

Four of the patient’s household members also contracted the virus. It was not clear if the samples of the four contacts already went through genome sequencing to determine the presence of the new variant.

Vergeire said the department is still verifying if there is a link between the cases from La Trinidad and Bontoc, which are both in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

The case in Calamba City in Laguna was found to have no link to the cases in the two Cordillera towns. 

The Philippines has so far recorded at least 17 cases of the variant.

Preliminary estimates find that B.1.1.7, which according to the World Health Organization has spread to 60 countries, is between 30% and 70% more contagious than other forms of the virus. 

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.

Strengthen isolation protocols

Vergeire called on local government units to strengthen further quarantine protocols in their localities.

“[This] is to ensure that those who are endorsed to them for quarantine and isolation should comply with the 14-day [mandatory quarantine],” she said.

With over 513,000 COVID-19 cases and 10,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second worst outbreak in Southeast Asia. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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