DOH confirms local UK COVID-19 variant transmission in Bontoc

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 26) – The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on Monday the local transmission of the more infectious United Kingdom (UK) COVID-19 variant in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

“The Department of Health confirms local transmission in Bontoc of the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2 as identified through genomic sequencing. To date, all identified cases with the UK variant can be epidemiologically linked to cases coming directly from outside the country (importation) or from specific cases or exposures that can still be identified (local transmission),” the DOH said in a statement.

The Health Department also emphasized there is still no “strong evidence” of community transmission of the UK COVID-19 variant in Bontoc in accordance with World Health Organization standards such as having large number of cases, case clusters in multiple areas, and “inability to link cases to known sources of infection.”

The DOH also revised its statement on Monday on the “index case” or possible infection source of the UK COVID-19 variant in Bontoc, saying the male patient tested positive for COVID-19 but negative for the new variant. His wife tested negative for COVID-19.

The man arrived in the country from UK on Dec. 13 and reached Bontoc the next day. He attended a Christmas celebration and a ritual on the 26th, then started having abdominal pains — a COVID-19 symptom — on Dec. 29.

Around 46 contacts of the man, who “mingled with relatives and neighbors” and attended the traditional ritual, tested positive for COVID-19. Of the 46 infected persons, 12 of them tested positive with the UK variant.

The DOH further disclosed that among the 12 patients who tested positive of UK COVID-19 variant, seven of them are men and three are children aged 5, 6, and 10.

The Health Department added 11 out of the 12 UK COVID-19 variant positive cases came from Barangay Samoki, where the Christmas celebration and traditional ritual activities happened.

The DOH said the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit and Bontoc local authorities are conducting a “backward tracing” on how the 12 residents contracted the UK COVID-19 variant.

“There is ongoing contact tracing of contacts up to the 3 generation for these B.1.1.7 variant cases. Samples from contacts not tested or negative on first test are being collected for PCR testing and sequencing, for eligible samples,” the DOH said.

The country has recorded at least 17 cases of the variant. The first case announced on Jan. 13 was a Filipino who traveled to Dubai. As of Monday, the country now has a total of 514,996 confirmed COVID-19 cases along with 10,292 deaths and 475,422 recoveries.