Baguio gets first COVID-19 UK variant case
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — A 30-year-old woman who had recovered from the coronavirus disease turned out to have contracted the mutated form of the virus, making her the city’s first UK variant case, officials said on Monday.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the infection of the woman was detected on Feb. 12 although she had been working from home since the last days of January. She was cleared of the disease on Feb. 23.
Magalong said the woman’s genome test result was released only on Feb. 28. It confirmed that she had acquired the more contagious variant of the virus, also called B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2, that originated from the United Kingdom.
Analysts have yet to determine how the city’s first UK variant patient acquired the virus.
But the mayor said the patient’s condition validated his suspicion that the UK strain has reached the city as soon as its presence was detected in Mountain Province in January.
He said the city’s epidemiologists and data surveillance team have been keeping track of Baguio’s COVID-19 cases and their possible connections to the UK variant patients in Bontoc town, Mountain Province, and neighboring town of La Trinidad in Benguet province.
As of last week, the UK variant cases in the region have risen to 21, but 17 have recovered from the disease.
The country’s lone fatality stricken with the UK variant was a La Trinidad resident who died in a Baguio hospital. The patient’s relatives who live here were still being monitored.
The city’s surveillance team had put together a digital link map that follows the pattern of UK variant transmissions from Bontoc and La Trinidad.
Bontoc is accessible via an 8-hour bus ride from this city while La Trinidad, which is adjacent to Baguio, is from where most of the inner city’s workforce reside.
“So far we haven’t established any [ties to the older variant cases],” Magalong said.
Tourists still welcome
Baguio continues to take in tourists after it had been exempted from general community quarantine restrictions on leisure travel.
But the city government is appealing the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to require all visitors to undergo only the P4,000 reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests at the point of entry.
“That will discourage our visitors at the time when we are trying to rebuild the economy,” he said.
Magalong had asked Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and IATF testing czar Vivencio Dizon to allow rapid antigen tests, which cost P1,300, for leisure travelers again.
As of Sunday, Baguio had 260 active COVID-19 cases out of the 5,665 infections recorded since the start of the pandemic. The disease has killed 105 residents.
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