The Department of Health (DOH) has detected the COVID-19 UK variant (B.1.1.7. SARS-CoV-2) in the Philippines after a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Jan. 7 tested positive for the disease.
According to the statement released by DOH today, Jan. 13, the patient is a male resident of Quezon City who departed for Dubai on Dec. 27, 2020, for business purposes and arrived in the Philippines last Thursday. He traveled with his female partner who tested negative for COVID-19. She is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring.
The DOH confirmed that the patient and his partner did not travel outside Quezon City nor had any exposure to a confirmed case prior to their departure to Dubai. However, the health agency advises those who were aboard Emirates Flight No. EK 332 to get in touch with their barangay health emergency response teams.
Meanwhile, Dr. Edsel Salvana, head of the Inter-Agency Task Force's Technical Group, confirmed in a Facebook post that "there is no evidence of community spread at this time" based on the 500 samples previously tested by the Philippine Genome Center.
"No need to panic since we have the tools to detect this," Dr. Salvana added. "But we need to increase our vigilance and our adherence to our preventive measures. If this new variant is 70% more infectious, then we should double our efforts to protect each other."
The DOH likewise reiterates its call for stricter observance of the minimum public health standards to further mitigate the risk of acquiring the virus and slow down possible mutations.
The OCTA Research Group is also recommending to the Philippine government a two-week extension of the strict travel restrictions imposed on countries with the new variant of COVID-19.
The new COVID-19 variant was first detected in the UK in Sept. 2020. It is said to be more contagious but whether it is more fatal has not been determined.