More cases of the UK COVID-19 virus variant have been detected in different parts of the Philippines, the Department of Health said Friday, raising concerns over its spread.
As of Friday, 16 more cases of the of the SARS-CoV-2 variant, known as B.1.1.7. have been detected by health authorities, bringing the total to 17, the DOH said. The variant is more contagious but not necessarily more dangerous.
Of the 16 new confirmed cases, the DOH said three have recovered, 13 are active cases—three of which are asymptomatic and 10 are exhibiting mild symptoms.
Who are the 16 new confirmed cases?
The health department said 12 ( seven men, and five women) are from Bontoc, Mountain Province. Three of the confirmed cases in the northern Luzon province are minors while another three are elderly.
"Contact tracing was immediately initiated to contain the spread of the infection. Investigation is also underway to identify these cases’ exposure and travel histories," the DOH said.
Two other patients sick with the new virus variant meanwhile are returning overseas Filipinos who arrived on Dec. 29, 2020 from Lebanon according to the DOH. Lebanon is included in the Philippines' ongoing travel ban over the new virus variant.
The patients flew via Philippine Airlines flight PR 8661.
The profile of the two cases according to the DOH are as follows:
- a 64-year old woman whose indicated local address is Jaro, Iloilo City. The patient was isolated in San Juan, Metro Manila and discharged on Jan. 9.
- a 47-year old Filipino woman whose reported local address is Binangonan, Rizal and was quarantined in New Clark City and discharged from isolation on Jan. 13.
The remaining two confirmed cases of the UK variant B.1.1.7. meanwhile are "local cases" detected in La Trinidad, Benguet and in Calamba City, Laguna, the DOH said.
The last two cases, according to the health department, have no known contact to any confirmed case or travel history from outside the country.
The patient in La Trinidad is currently admitted in a Benguet Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility, while the 23-year-old male patient in Laguna has been discharged after receiving a negative result on Jan. 16, the DOH said.
"Biosurveillance is in place, and we will continue to expand our capacities to detect all COVID variants of public health importance," the DOH said, as it urged local government units to ensure compliance to quarantine protocols in their respective localities.
The Philippines on Jan. 13 confirmed its first case of the more contagious COVID-19 virus variant. Just two days ago, the DOH also confirmed that several close contacts of the male index case--including his girlfriend, and mom--have tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant.
While the Philippines has not drastically changed any of its protocols for pandemic response despite the new virus variant, it sought to rehire 15,000 contact tracers whose contracts expired at the end of 2020.
Health authorities have also repeatedly reminded the public to strictly observe minimum health standards such as the wearing of face masks and face shields as the new variant spreading in the UK and parts of the globe, is more contagious but not exactly more lethal.