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 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.
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.