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Explained: Difference Between Local, Community Transmission of COVID-19

The distinction matters.
by Arianne Merez
Jan 27, 2021
Photo/s: Shutterstock

As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, new variants of the virus that causes the rapidly spreading disease have emerged, complicating global efforts to put the health crisis under control.

In the Philippines, health authorities have confirmed local transmission of the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2,  known as B.1.1.7, in the highland town of Bontoc in Mountain Province.

The Department of Health however noted that there is no community transmission yet, confusing some people as to how risky the situation is. 


Lockdowns, Mass Testing in Bontoc as 12 More Fall Sick to UK COVID Variant

How do the two differ? DOH spokesperson Usec. Rosario Vergeire explains it.

For local transmission, Vergeire said it means that there is a confirmed COVID-19 case in the community who has infected other people surrounding him or her.

"When isang local case po na ganiyan ay nakapanghawa na sa iba, we call that local transmission already," Vergeire said in a press briefing Wednesday.

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As explained by the  World Health Organization too, local transmission "indicates locations where the source of infection is within the reporting location."

What about community transmission? Vergeire said it means that there is a confirmed COVID-19 case in a community but the source of the infection can no longer be identified.

"Ibig sabihin laganap na po ang mga impeksiyon dito sa community na ito and you cannot anymore identify who is the exact source of infections. That is community transmission already," she said.

A more detailed definition of community transmission from the WHO is that it is "evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, or by increasing positive tests through sentinel samples (routine systematic testing of respiratory samples from established laboratories)."

In the case of Bontoc, Vergeire said health authorities can still link and identify sources of the infection which makes it a case of local transmission.

Continue reading below ↓
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Health authorities have repeatedly reiterated the importance of strictly following minimum health standards such as wearing face masks and observing physical distancing to fight the spread of COVID-19.


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