38 contacts of UK variant cases infected with COVID
MANILA, Philippines — Six of the 34 close contacts of the 12 residents of Bontoc, Mountain Province, who have been infected with the UK variant of the new coronavirus, have tested positive for other variants of the Covid-19 virus, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.
The DOH said the 28 other contacts were also positive for the virus but the bug in their samples had yet to be identified through genome sequencing.
So far, 136 contacts of the 12 UK variant patients have been identified, the DOH said.
Of those people, it said, 108 had been tested for Covid-19 and 74 had been found negative and 34 positive.
As of Monday, nine of the 12 UK variant patients have been discharged from isolation, the DOH said. One of the three who remain isolated is
critically ill, it said.
Of the 12 UK variant cases in Bontoc, the DOH said, four are considered first-generation close contacts of the index case, while eight are second-generation close contacts.
“We are determining the index case as we now do backtracking of contact tracing, though now we treat the individual who came home on Dec. 13 as our index case,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, referring to the Filipino migrant worker who returned from the United Kingdom on that date, arrived in Bontoc on Dec. 14, and began to show symptoms on Dec. 29.
“We were able to identify three clusters of infections. We saw how the infection started, although there is nothing definite because there may be a case that came from abroad,” Vergeire said.
On Friday, the DOH reported 16 additional cases of the UK variant since the first reported case, a 29-year-old Filipino who returned to the Philippines from Dubai on Jan. 7.
Aside from the 12 Bontoc residents, a case of the UK variant was found in La Trinidad, Benguet province, another in Calamba City, Laguna, and two migrant workers who returned from Lebanon.
Vergeire said 97 close contacts of the La Trinidad case had been identified and four of them, all family members and living in the same house as the patient, had tested positive for the coronavirus. Ninety-three of those people are in quarantine, she said.
Contact tracing is still going on for the case in Calamba, while one of the two migrants who have returned from Lebanon has yet to be located, Vergeire said.
Despite the confirmed cases of the UK variant in the country, the DOH, she said, was not recommending a return to stricter lockdown.
But she underscored the need for strict implementation of health measures, such as wearing of masks and face shields, safe distancing, cough etiquette and frequent handwashing to prevent further transmission of the virus.
Three towns in Cordillera region, however, have imposed travel restrictions to prevent their residents from going to Bontoc.
The towns of Lagawe and Aguinaldo in Ifugao province and Paracelis in Mountain Province are discouraging travel to Bontoc to avoid more outbreaks that have forced a return to general community quarantine.
The Lagawe and Aguinaldo local governments have limited travel to and from areas with UK variant cases to medical emergencies.
People entering the three towns are required to show negative Covid-19 tests.
In a statement on Sunday, Paracelis Mayor Marcos Ayangwa said the local government had also suspended the issuance of travel passes and health declarations.
Vice mayor catches virus
Also on Sunday, Bontoc Vice Mayor Eusebio Kabluyen said in a statement that he had contracted the coronavirus. He did not say, however, if it was the UK variant that he had caught.
Kabluyen appealed to people who had come in close contact with him in the last 14 days to go to the Bontoc municipal health office for isolation. He also asked them to disclose their own contacts for tracing.
On Jan. 15, Bontoc Mayor Franklin Odsey tested positive for the coronavirus and went into isolation. He said he was asymptomatic.
Elsewhere in Cordillera, the Abra provincial government has suspended the issuance of travel passes to Baguio City in Benguet and other provinces in the region as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the UK variant in the area.
In Kalinga province, the local government of Tabuk City on Sunday imposed a two-week lockdown due to rising cases of COVID-19. —WITH A REPORT FROM KIMBERLIE QUITASOL INQ
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