QC identifies contacts of new COVID-19 variant patient
This Dec. 24, 2020 photo shows passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The STAR/KJ Rosales

QC identifies contacts of new COVID-19 variant patient

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - January 17, 2021 - 12:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Quezon City local government announced it had identified and is "closely monitoring" a total of 143 persons who are considered close contacts of the first Filipino infected with the new coronavirus variant first recorded in the United Kingdom. 

To recall, a 29-year-old man from Barangay Kamuning was recorded as the first Filipino with the new strain of the pathogen, which is said to be more infectious than the initial strain that emerged over a year ago. He was aboard Emirates flight EK 332, and the Department of Health has since classified all other passengers on that flight as close contacts. He has since been declared to be asymptomatic and in good condition, according to the city government at a press briefing. 

In a statement issued Saturday evening, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte disclosed that 55 of the documented contacts are first-generation close contacts, or individuals who have been within two meters of the infected person. All have been tested and are awaiting results in quarantine facilities, she said. 

Rolando Cruz, head of the City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit, added that these include the more than 30 healthcare workers and barangay workers who assisted and cared for the patient when he was transferred from a quarantine facility in Manila to another isolation facility in Quezon City after his COVID-19 positive test was released.

At least 88 other individuals were also identified as second-generation close contacts or “contacts of the first close contacts,” 11 of whom have been swabbed so far according to Cruz, while all were advised to remain under home quarantine for 14 days.

“We are still looking for that one close contact passenger because the phone number and address indicated were incorrect,” Cruz said, adding that the CESU has tapped the national police and other agencies for assistance. Belmonte for her part is appealing to the Bureau of Quarantine, the agency overseeing the testing and isolation of returning Filipinos, to review its records so this individual could be located immediately.  

“We’re now waiting for the results of all the samples we sent to the Philippine Genome Center yesterday and the other day,” he added. 

Members of the man's household were also tested as a precautionary measure despite not having come into contact with the patient after he returned from Dubai on January 7. His partner who flew in from Dubai with him and tested negative was also re-swabbed and is currently in an isolation facility.

Also among the passengers aboard the same flight as the man were eight Quezon City residents, all but one of whom Cruz said were re-swabbed on Friday, January 15, and are now under quarantine. 

QC vaccination sites identified

In a separate statement sent to reporters on Sunday morning, the city government also disclosed that at least 10 locations have already been initially identified as inoculation sites for COVID-19 vaccination for residents of the city which is the largest locality in the country. 

To recall, the Quezon City local government earlier entered into a tripartite agreement with British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and the national government for the delivery of 1.1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines for residents of the city.

READ: A roundup of local governments who secured vaccine deals in advance

“We chose areas accessible to the residents of the city's six districts,” Belmonte said, adding that the city government is targeting to establish 24 sites, in addition to the three city-run hospitals – QC General Hospital, Rosario Maclang Bautista General Hospital and Novaliches District Hospital.

Among the chosen vaccination sites as of this post are:

  1. Project 6 Tennis Court in District 1
  2. Batasan Hills National High School and NGC Covered Court in District 2
  3. Aguinaldo Elementary School in District 3. 
  4. Dona Josefa Jara Martinez High School and Diosdado Macapagal Elementary School in District 4
  5. Kaligayahan Activity Center and Fairview Covered Court in District 5
  6. Emilio Jacinto Elementary School and Culiat High School in District 6 

According to Dr. Esperanza Arias, head of the City Health Department, the city has already identified the other vaccination sites which are still being evaluated according to their compliance with the Department of Health's minimum health standards. 

“The vaccination site must have unidirectional workflow or one entry and one exit, comfort rooms, and ample space for free movement of staff and observance of minimum health standards,” Arias said, adding that a standby generator set, an ambulance, and presence of Barangay Health Emergency Response Team personnel are also required, among others. 

”For every site, the QC government will designate 22 employees composed of physicians, marshals, vaccinators, counselors, and admin staff,” she also said. 

Belmonte also urged Filipinos returning from abroad, especially those from Quezon City, to observe the 14-day quarantine period, whether test results are positive or negative.

“Now that we know the Covid-19 UK variant has reached our shores, we have to take extra precautions, especially when returning from overseas trips where there is an intermingling of different nationalities," Belmonte said. 

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