PH still free from mutant coronavirus

Published January 6, 2021, 11:48 AM

by Analou de Vera

The Philippines still remains free from the new variant of COVID-19 virus, the Department of Health (DOH) announced on Wednesday.

Airline ground staff (L) wearing protective gear work at the counter at the airport in Manila on August 4, 2020. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Amid speculations that the UK variant (B.1.1.7) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is already in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) today report that the said variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not yet been detected in the country,” the DOH said in a statement.

The DOH said that the new variant of COVID-19 virus was not detected in “any of the 305 positive samples submitted” to the PGC – that conducted “genome sequencing.”

“The 305 samples analyzed by PGC were composed of positive samples from November-December hospital admissions and from inbound travellers who tested positive upon arrival at the airport,” the DOH said.

The mutant coronavirus, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, was said to be more transmissible.

“Current evidence suggests 70 percent higher transmissibility o mas mabilis na panghahawa nito [or faster transmission],” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during a recent press briefing.

While the Philippines remains from the mutant coronavirus, the DOH assured that it is in close coordination with Hong Kong officials after a passenger from the Philippines was detected to have the new variant of COVID-19 virus.

“The Department is in close coordination with Hong Kong’s International Health Regulations focal point to secure official notification and other pertinent information regarding the Hong Kong resident who tested positive for the variant following travel history from the Philippines,” it said.

As a precautionary measure, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they will conduct contact tracing on the co-passengers of the patient, who arrived in Hong Kong last December 22.

Vergeire said that they were able to get the list of passengers onboard Philippine Airlines flight PR300.

“What we did last night, we already requested from the Bureau of Quarantine the flight manifest of this PR300, the flight that was identified, and we received it this morning. We were able to look at the line list of passengers. There were a total of 40 passengers on that flight,” said Vergeire in a press briefing.

“Nagco-contact trace na rin po kami dito, kinuha na po namin lahat ng contacts and addresses so that we can be able to this [We are also doing contact tracing here, we got the contact (information) and addresses so that we can be able to this],” she added.

Meanwhile, the health department reminded the public to continue practicing the minimum public health standards.

“The DOH calls on all local government units and the transport regulators to continuously implement the health protocols in all settings,” it said.

“Strictly following the minimum public health standards (MPHS) is still the best measure to cut transmission of the variant and minimize the opportunities for virus mutation,” it added.