UK Covid-19 variant detected in PH
MANILA, Philippines — The new and more infectious variant of Covid-19 first reported in the United Kingdom has been detected in the Philippines.
In a statement Wednesday, the Department of Health (DOH) said the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) reported the detection of the new variant, known as B117, after samples from a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Jan. 7 yielded positive genome sequencing results.
The patient with the UK variant is a male resident of Quezon City who departed for Dubai on Dec. 27 for business purposes and arrived in the Philippines last Jan. 7 via Emirates Flight No. EK 332.
“The patient was swabbed and quarantined in a hotel upon arrival. The positive test result was released the following day and the patient was referred to a quarantine facility in Quezon City while his samples were sent to PGC for whole-genome sequencing,” the DOH said.
His female partner accompanied the patient during his trip, but she tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 upon arrival. She is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring.
The couple had no exposure to a confirmed case before their departure to Dubai nor had any travel activities outside Quezon City, the DOH noted.
It remains unclear where the said Filipino got infected with the UK variant.
But in a separate statement, the QC government said the “patient and his companion tested negative before leaving the Philippines and tested negative as well upon arrival in Dubai.”
Immediate contact tracing was done in close coordination with the QC government, and the initially identified contacts are asymptomatic and currently under strict home quarantine.
The DOH has also secured the flight manifest of the flight in question and contact tracing of other passengers is now underway. The DOH advises those who were aboard Emirates Flight No. EK 332 to get in touch with their barangay health workers.
The QC government said it is also waiting for the DOH to submit the list of passengers who were on the same flight as the patient from Dubai to contact trace passengers who may be from the city.
The city government likewise initiated heightened surveillance in the community of the resident to determine the presence of clustered cases.
The UK variant is associated with a higher viral load, meaning a greater concentration of virus particles in patients’ bodies, possibly contributing to increased transmission.
Experts, however, said no evidence yet suggests that it is more deadly than the original variant of the coronavirus disease.
If the UK variant becomes the dominant species in the Philippines, the country’s COVID-19 caseload may increase by 15 fold, a local disease expert earlier warned.
So far, the Philippines has 492,700 confirmed coronavirus infections, of which, 458,523 are recoveries while 9,699 are deaths.
Virus variant now in 50 countries – WHO
The coronavirus mutation first found in Britain has now spread to 50 territories, according to the World Health Organization, while a similar South African-identified strain has now been found in 20.
The UN body also noted a third new coronavirus “variant of concern” found in Japan may impact upon immune response and needs further investigation.
“The more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge,” said the WHO.
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes Covid-19 disease.
Since first being reported to the WHO on December 14, the British-identified variant VOC 202012/01 has been found in 50 countries, territories and areas, the agency said.
Test results showed the age and sex distribution was similar to that of other circulating variants, while contact tracing data revealed “higher transmissibility (secondary attack rates) where the index case has the variant strain”.
The South African-identified variant 501Y.V2, first reported on December 18, has now been detected in 20 countries, territories and areas.
“From preliminary and ongoing investigations in South Africa, it is possible that the 501Y.V2 variant is more transmissible than variants circulating in South Africa previously,” the WHO weekly report said.
“Moreover, while this new variant does not appear to cause more severe illness, the observed rapid increases in case numbers has placed health systems under pressure.”
The geographical spread of both variants is likely underestimated, said the WHO, given a bias towards detection in countries with virus sequencing capacity. With a report from Agence France-Press
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