DOH: UK virus variant detected in Philippines

GMA News – January 13, 2021 8:11PM

The Department of Health (DOH) and Philippine Genome Center (PGC) on Wednesday announced that the new coronavirus variant initially discovered in the United Kingdom has been detected in the Philippines.

“The DOH and the PGC today officially confirm the detection of the B.1.1.7. SARS-CoV-2 variant (UK variant) in the country after samples from a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates on January 7 yielded positive genome sequencing results,” they said in a statement.

The UK variant, first detected in December, is more infectious, but it does not appear to make the illness more severe.

The DOH said the patient is a male resident of Quezon City who left for Dubai on December 27 for business purposes and returned to the country on January 7 aboard Emirates Flight No. EK 332.

The patient was swabbed and underwent quarantine in a hotel upon his return to the Philippines.

After his test results came back positive, he was transferred to a Quezon City facility while his samples were sent to the PGC.

The patient’s female partner, meanwhile, tested negative for COVID-19 and 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 said.

The couple’s contacts who have so far been identified by authorities are asymptomatic and currently under strict home quarantine.

The DOH also said contact tracing for other passengers was underway after it secured the flight manifest.

“Meanwhile, weekly genomic biosurveillance among incoming passengers, local cases, re-infected patients, and those with reported clustering of cases will be intensified,” the department vowed.

Travel restrictions

The Philippines has barred arrivals from 30 countries due to the UK variant, which is more infectious and which has been detected in at least 41 other countries. It has not yet been determined if it results in more severe illness.

Filipino citizens will be allowed to enter the Philippines as long as they undergo screening for COVID-19 and facility-based quarantine for 14 days.

Last week Hong Kong announced that a woman who had arrived from the Philippines was found to have the variant.

Health officials here said that her relatives have tested negative. She herself had tested negative prior to departing for Hong Kong.

Five other variants are being monitored across the globe:

  • South Africa: 501Y.V2, found in 10 countries
  • Malaysia: 1701V
  • Nigeria: P681H
  • Denmark: Cluster 5
  • China: D614G, most widespread and dominant

A study conducted by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch found that the vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer appeared to work against the UK and South Africa variants.

Moderna’s vaccine is also expected to be effective against the variant, the Dutch national drugs authority said. — BM, GMA News


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