DOH questions claims UK variant behind COVID-19 rise in Cebu City
CEBU CITY—The Department of Health (DOH) office in Central Visayas sought to refute claims by experts that the rise in infections in the city was driven by a variant of SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that was first found in United Kingdom.
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH regional spokesperson, said at an online press conference on Monday (Feb. 8) that 70 sets of respiratory samples had been sent to the genome center in Metro Manila and no conclusion can be made until these were found to be positive for the new coronavirus variant.
Loreche said other factors contribute to the rise in cases and not just the presence of the UK variant B.1.17, which was believed to be 50 to 70 percent more contagious than the original SARS Cov2 virus.
Loreche said there has been no community transmission so far of the UK variant in Cebu City as in the case of a patient in Talisay City.
She said, however, that no conclusions can be drawn on the cases of other infected persons who had travelled from virus hot spot Metro Manila and other areas where there have been community transmission of B.1.17.
She added that the infected travellers were “the reason we conducted bio-surveillance” in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.
The bio-surveillance led to the 70 respiratory samples taken from a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the three cities. The samples had been sent to the Philippine Genome Center in Manila on Monday (Feb. 8).
Of the 70 samples, only 62 qualified and will be tested for sequencing to determine if they were that of the UK variant.
The results of the sequencing are expected to be completed in seven days.
Loreche also announced that some 117,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine will arrive for hospital workers in Central Visayas before Feb. 15.
Training will be conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday for those who would administer the inoculation.
There are more than 2,900 health care workers in the region and not all will be given the vaccine. The rest will be on the second batch of vaccine recipients.
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