UK variant now in PH

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    THE United Kingdom strain of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is now in the Philippines, according to the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC).

    In a statement released last night, the DOH said the UK variant has been detected from a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates last January 7.

    “The said patient is a male resident of Quezon City, who departed for Dubai on December 27, 2020 for business purposes, and arrived in the Philippines last January 7, 2021 via Emirates Flight No. EK 332,” the DOH said.

    The DOH said the patient was tested and quarantined in a hotel upon arrival, with tests yielding positive results the next day.

    The patient was subsequently referred to a quarantine facility in Quezon City while his samples were sent to the PGC for whole genome sequencing.

    The DOH said the patient was accompanied by his female partner during the trip. She tested negative upon arrival but is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring.

    “Both of the returning Filipinos had no exposure to a confirmed case prior to their departure to Dubai nor had any travel activities outside Quezon City,” the DOH said, adding it has secured the flight manifest of the flight to pave the way for contact tracing.

    “The DOH advises those who were aboard Emirates Flight No. EK 332 to get in touch with their Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs),” the DOH said.

    Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday called on local government units (LGUs) to pick up the cudgels in the contact tracing efforts for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, adding the Department of Interior and local government has ran out of money.

    In a televised public briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire urged LGUs to hire contact tracers to ensure that efforts to identify close contacts with COVID-positive persons will not suffer.

    “We are encouraging LGUs to hire for the meantime contact tracers so that the pursuit will not stop,” said Vergeire. “We are hoping the LGUs will continue with the strategy we are doing with regards to contact tracing by filling in the gap.”

    The DOH issued the call as the deadly virus claimed 146 more lives, raising the number of fatalities in the country to 9,699.

    There were 1,453 new cases as the total number of infections in the country rose to 492,700. If the trend continues, the number of infections will breach the 500K mark soon.

    A large number of contact tracers hired by the DILG had their contracts ending by December 2020. The agency is still looking for funds to resume hiring contract tracers.

    The DILG is the lead agency in contact tracing efforts as tasked by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    Some 50,000 contact tracers were hired and trained by the DILG last year to help track and trace people who had contacts with persons positive for COVID.

    Having the highest number of cases yesterday were Quezon City (95), Cavite (66), Manila (54), Davao City (50), and Cebu City (44).

    There were 397 more recoveries, meaning the number of survivors rose to 458,523.

    There are 24,478 active cases, accounting for 5 percent of COVID cases in the country.

    Of the active cases, 84.9 percent are mild cases, 6.1 percent are asymptomatic cases, 5.5 percent are critical cases, 3 percent are severe cases, and 0.50 percent are moderate cases.

    Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said 67, 000 city residents have registered for its vaccination program. The city government had inked a deal with AstraZeneca to purchase 800,000 doses of the COVID vaccine.

    Moreno added the city government is looking for volunteers to assist the city health department in its vaccination program once the vaccines are available.

    The number of overseas Filipinos infected with the deadly rose to 13,378 after 322 new cases were reported by the Department of Foreign Affairs. There were no new deaths. – Ashzel Hachero