Duterte expresses concern over detection of UK COVID-19 variant in PH

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on January 13, 2021. RICHARD MADELO/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) – President Rodrigo Duterte voiced out his concern over the detection of the new COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom in the country.

“May bagong monster na naman. And I pray to God really na sana ay hindi ito more dangerous, more toxic than the original COVID (variant),” the President said during the weekly Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases meeting on Wednesday night.

[Translation: There’s a new monster again. And I pray to God really that this will not be more dangerous and more toxic than the original COVID-19 variant.]

Duterte appealed to government authorities to find the people who had contact with the patient detected with the B.1.1.7. SARS-CoV-2 variant to control the spread of the new variant in the country.

“It’s important to find out who are the people they talked to when they arrived here. That’s very important, whoever they are. So they will be traced and found and be examined for their own good,” he said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told the President during the meeting the victim is a 29-year-old real estate agent from Barangay Kamuning, Quezon City.

The Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) confirmed on Wednesday night the man, who returned home from Dubai last January 7, yielded positive genome sequencing results of the UK COVID-19 variant.

He was tested for COVID-19 and was quarantined in a hotel upon arrival, the DOH said. After testing positive for the virus a day after, he was referred to an isolation facility in Quezon City, while his samples were sent to PGC for whole genome sequencing. He also underwent an x-ray examination and was found to have pneumonia.

The DOH added the patient was with his girlfriend during the trip, but she tested negative for COVID-19 upon arrival. She is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring.

Contact tracing was immediately done by authorities and initially identified contacts are now under strict home quarantine, where none of them are exhibiting symptoms. Those aboard Emirates Flight No. EK 332 are advised by the DOH to get in touch with their barangay health emergency response teams.

Medical expert Dra. Lulu Bravo explained the UK variant is not as deadly as the old COVID-19 variants but is "highly more transmissible" according to initial scientific studies.

DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said the agency is also monitoring global developments on three other reported COVID-19 variants, including the ones found in South Africa and Sabah, and another supposedly detected in Nigeria.

To date, the country has recorded 492,700 cases, which include 9,699 deaths and 458,523 recoveries.