On Jan. 13, the Department of Health (DOH) announced that the Philippines has recorded its first case of the UK COVID-19 variant.
The patient infected with the more contagious strain of the COVID-19 virus is a male Quezon City resident who traveled to Dubai on Dec. 27 for business, and arrived back in the Philippines on Jan. 7 via Emirates flight no. EK332. His female partner was with him on the trip.
In a separate statement, the Quezon City government said that prior to flying out of the country and on arrival in Dubai, both the patient and his partner tested negative for COVID-19. Upon arrival in the Philippines, the pair were swabbed and quarantined in a hotel before learning that the male patient had tested positive for COVID-19.
“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 patient was also accompanied by his female partner during his trip, but she tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 upon arrival. The female is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring,” the DOH press release read.
Quezon City heightening track and trace response
In response to the news, the Quezon City government is ramping up its efforts to contain the spread of the new variant.
“We are doing everything we can to trace and isolate, knowing fully well that this variant is more contagious but not more virulent,” said Quezon City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Cesu) head, Dr. Rolly Cruz.
As a precautionary measure, the patient’s entire household was brought to a quarantine facility for isolation and monitoring. Cesu is also closely monitoring the patient’s community to check for possible infections.
The government is also exerting effort in contacting the passengers of Emirates flight no. EK 332 as part of its contact tracing measures.
Other passengers have been notified
On Jan. 14, Health undersecretary Dr. Rosario Vergerie said that although the government has the list of other passengers on the flight, some of them were not entertaining the government’s calls.
She said that while they were able to talk to most of the passengers, some were “rejecting” their calls, she said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo. “‘Yung iba po patay ang telepono, so ito po ay mga challenges sa atin so hopefully we (will) be able to talk with them today,” she added.
The UK COVID-19 variant carries an increased viral load (which possibly contributes to a higher transmission rate), but has not been proven to be more deadly than the original COVID-19 virus.