MANILA, Philippines — The new and more contagious variant of COVID-19 that first emerged in the United Kingdom has been detected in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) announced last night.
In a statement, the DOH and PGC said that following strengthened biosurveillance and border control efforts, the B-117 SARS-CoV-2 or the UK variant was detected in the Philippines after samples from a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Jan. 7 “yielded positive genome sequencing results.”
The patient is a male resident of Quezon City who departed for Dubai on Dec. 27, 2020 for business purposes. He returned to the Philippines on Jan. 7 via Emirates Flight EK 332.
He was swabbed and quarantined in a hotel upon arrival.
“The positive test result was released the following day and the patient was referred to a quarantine facility in Quezon City while his samples were sent to PGC for whole genome sequencing,” the DOH and PGC said.
The patient was accompanied by his female partner during his trip.
However, the woman tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, upon arrival.
The woman is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring.
“Both of the returning Filipinos had no exposure to a confirmed case prior to their departure to Dubai nor had any travel activities outside Quezon City,” the DOH and PGC said.
Immediate contact tracing was done in close coordination with the Quezon City government.
Those initially identified as contacts are asymptomatic and currently under strict home quarantine.
The DOH assured that it continues to work closely with the QC LGU to ensure timely and effective measures are in place to mitigate transmission.
It secured the flight manifest and initiated contact tracing of other passengers.
The DOH advises those who were aboard Emirates Flight EK 332 to get in touch with their barangay health emergency response teams.
The DOH assured the public that the weekly genomic biosurveillance among incoming passengers, local cases, re-infected patients, and those with reported clustering of cases will be intensified.
The DOH has also coordinated with the Department of Interior and Local Government for the expansion of contact tracing to include third-generation close contacts for known B117 cases.
All close contacts of confirmed B117 cases shall also undergo strict 14-day facility-based quarantine.
The DOH reiterated its call to national government agencies, local government units and the public for stricter observance of the minimum public health standards and stricter implementation of quarantine protocols to further mitigate the risk of acquiring the virus and slow down possible mutations.