The Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) on Wednesday confirmed the detection of the B.1.1.7. SARS-CoV-2 variant (UK variant) in the country after samples from a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Jan. 7 yielded positive genome sequencing results.
DOH, in a press release, said the patient is a male resident of Quezon City who left for Dubai on Dec. 27, 2020 for business trip and arrived in the Philippines last Jan. 7 via Emirates Flight No. EK 332.
The patient was swabbed and quarantined in a hotel upon arrival.
The positive test result was released the following day and the patient was referred to a quarantine facility in Quezon City while his samples were sent to PGC for whole genome sequencing.
The patient was also accompanied by his female partner during his trip, but she tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 upon arrival.
The female is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring.
Both returning Filipinos had no exposure to a confirmed case prior to their departure to Dubai nor had any travel activities outside Quezon City.
DOH said immediate contact tracing was done in close coordination with the QC government, and the initially identified contacts are asymptomatic and currently under strict home quarantine.
The DOH said it continues to work closely with the QC government to ensure timely and effective measures are in place to mitigate transmission.
DOH added that it has also secured the flight manifest of the flight in question and contact tracing of other passengers is now underway.
DOH advised those who were aboard Emirates Flight No. EK 332 to get in touch with their BHERTs.
Meanwhile, DOH said weekly genomic biosurveillance among incoming passengers, local cases, re-infected patients, and those with reported clustering of cases will be intensified.
The DOH has also coordinated with the Department of Interior and Local Government for the expansion of contact tracing to include third-generation close contacts for known B.1.1.7 cases.
All close contacts of confirmed B.1.1.7 cases shall also undergo strict 14-day facility-based quarantine.
Following the detection of the more transmissible UK variant here in the country, DOH said mode of transmission has not changed.
DOH said this means the minimum public health standards remain to be the effective measure against the spread of the disease.
The DOH reiterates its call to national government agencies, local government units, and the public for stricter observance of the minimum public health standards and stricter implementation of quarantine protocols to further mitigate the risk of acquiring the virus and slow down possible mutations.