Filipina likely got new COVID strain in HK, says Duque

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    HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque III yesterday said it was possible that the 30-year old Filipina who was Hong Kong’s first case of the United Kingdom (UK) strain of the coronavirus acquired the virus in the Chinese colony.

    In a television interview, Duque said he is not ruling out the possibility that the Filipina became afflicted with the virus in Hong Kong as he noted the length of time the patient left the Philippines and stayed in Hong Kong.

    “When she left, she was tested negative. And on January 2, 10 days after she arrived in Hong Kong, she tested positive. So, that’s 10 days in between from the time she left and then the time she arrived in Hong Kong, when she tested positive. So you can readily just speculate that it’s possible she might have contracted it there,” Duque said.

    The Department of Health said the 30-year old Filipina was found to be from the Cagayan Valley region and left for Hong Kong on December 22, 2020 to work as a household service worker.

    “What we know is (she is a) Filipino. And is a domestic helper,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a text message.

    “She remains in isolation and in stable condition,” she added.

    Citing reports from their regional offices in Cagayan Valley and Metro Manila, the patient was said to have left her home region last December 17, 2020, and arrived in the NCR on December 18, 2020.

    She immediately underwent quarantine as per the workplace protocol, and was tested using RT-PCR on December 19, and yielded a negative result.

    Additionally, based on the report provided by the Hong Kong International Health Regulations National Focal Point, she underwent quarantine upon arrival in Hong Kong on December 22 last year.

    On January 2, 2021, the patient underwent RT-PCR testing again, and netted positive results and was identified to be of the UK variant.

    At the home front, the DOH said it also started contact tracing efforts in Cagayan Valley and NCR.

    “They have been instructed to ensure strict quarantine of identified close contacts and for samples collected from said contacts to be sent for confirmatory testing and, if samples test positive, subsequent whole genome sequencing,” said the health department.

    Earlier, the DOH said it has already obtained a copy of the flight manifest of flight PR300 to be used in contact tracing efforts for all its 40 passengers.

    “The tracing of passengers is being conducted, while we await updates on the contact tracing efforts done in Hong Kong,” said the DOH.

    With the National Capital Region (NCR) still the epicenter of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the country, Metro Manila residents were found to be largely compliant to established public health protocols.

    Based on the OCTA Research Team survey results, there is a high rate of compliance to minimum health standards in Metro Manila among the 600 respondents aged 18 and above.

    “A large majority of Metro Manila respondents follow government-mandated health protocols or minimum health standards,” said the OCTA survey.

    Survey results show that 93 percent of many Metro Manila respondents use face masks to avoid contracting COVID-19.

    Similarly, around 83 percent of Metro Manila respondents use a face shield when they go out of their homes to avoid catching the virus.

    The survey also showed that 89 percent of many Metro Manila respondents continue to practice proper hygiene, through regular hand washing.

    Lastly, 73 percent of Metro Manila respondents practiced “social or physical distance” or a safe distance of one meter from other people when outside their homes.

    But while a large majority are adhering, the frequency in doing so comes at a lower rate, based on the OCTA survey.

    “In terms of frequency, a lower percentage of respondents in Metro Manila always or regularly practice minimum health protocols,” said the survey.

    The survey results show that 83 percent of the respondents said they always or regularly use a face mask outside their homes.

    Similarly, it showed that 61 percent said that they always use a face shield when going out of the house.

    The study also showed that a total of 77 percent of the respondents are saying that they wash their hands several times a day.

    Lastly, only 67 percent of respondents in Metro Manila always or regularly practice physical distancing.

    The OCTA survey is an independent and non-commissioned scientific poll that was conducted in the NCR from December 9 to 13, 2020, using face-to-face interviews with a sample size of 600 respondents aged 18 and above.

    The survey, said the research team, asked respondents about the measures they have taken to avoid contracting COVID-19 and the frequency of these activities.