The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday said another co-passenger of the Philippines’ first case of the UK variant of the coronavirus has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 14.
Dr. Alethea de Guzman, medical specialist IV of the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau, said the 14th positive case was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.
Like the two other passengers announced earlier on Wednesday, the 14th case also tested negative upon arrival in the Philippines and then tested positive after being re-swabbed.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said that those who initially tested negative, including the first case’s girlfriend, might have been tested during the incubation period of the virus when they arrived in Manila.
She said the DOH now recommends that passengers be tested again five days after they arrive in the Philippines to make sure they are not carriers.
The Quezon City government is now investigating how the mother of its resident who returned from Dubai and tested positive with the UK variant of COVID-19 got the disease.
“We are already investigating how the mother of our UK variant case got infected with COVID-19 since the index case never set foot at home or in the community and did not have any interaction with her after arriving in the Philippines from Dubai on Jan. 7,” City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit chief Dr. Rolly Cruz said.
After the Philippine Genome Center confirmed that a 29-year-old passenger of Flight EK 332 from Dubai had the UK variant, the Quezon City government immediately conducted contact tracing and swab testing of his identified close contacts, including health-care workers and barangay frontliners who assisted and cared for him when he was transferred from the quarantine hotel in Manila to the isolation facility in Quezon City where he now remains.
As a precautionary measure, the patient’s immediate household members, including his mother, were also isolated and swabbed.
Only the mother tested positive for COVID-19, Cruz said.
The mother’s swab sample was brought to the Philippine Genome Center last week to check if hers is the common COVID-19 virus or the UK variant.
“Her results will be released any day now,” Cruz said.
All the frontliners from Barangay Kamuning received negative test results.
However, one health-care worker at the Hope isolation facility where the index case is located tested positive.
Cruz said they are now checking whether his result is due to the remnants of the disease due to a recent a COVID-19 infection or to a new infection.
In addition to his mother, the girlfriend of the UK variant case also tested positive after she was re-swabbed.
Her first test administered immediately after returning from Dubai was negative, and that she was advised to complete her 14-day self-quarantine at home.
She was transferred to an isolation facility immediately when tests showed that the index case had the UK variant.
Her sample has also been sent to the Philippine Genome Center.
“We will soon learn whether she has the UK variant like the index case, or the regular COVID-19 virus,” Cruz said.
As confirmed by the Department of Health earlier, two other co-passengers who initially tested negative yielded a positive result during re-swabbing.
The two, who are not from Quezon City and seated far from the index case, are currently isolated and under strict monitoring.
The DOH is now awaiting the results to determine if they are also infected with the UK variant.
Cruz also clarified that out of the nine positive cases from the Emirates flight as announced by the DOH, only the UK variant case is a Quezon City resident.
The other eight positive cases come from elsewhere, he added.
Another seven of eight co-passengers who reside in Quezon City are now in quarantine while awaiting their second test results.
They were first swabbed and tested negative after arriving from Dubai.
With help from the Philippine National Police and Bureau of Quarantine, the city government is still locating the whereabouts of the eighth passenger.
To date, the UK variant case has nearly recovered, Cruz said.
“We are just waiting for guidance from the DOH if he still needs to extend his quarantine period to ensure he will no longer be infectious,” he added.
The city government strongly encourages all Filipinos returning from abroad to adhere to the 14-day quarantine period regardless of test results.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, meanwhile, said the Department of Health has located another close contact of the country’s first case of the UK variant of COVID-19. Out of 213 close contacts, she said, the DOH was still looking for three, two from Metro Manila and one from Region 7.
Also on Thursday, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III and treatment zzar Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega visited the Quezon Institute (QI) off-site modular hospital, which will add to its surge capacity for COVID-19 cases.
The QI Off-site Modular Hospital is an extension of the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center and will be under the direct supervision of JRRMMC chief Dr. Emmanuel Montaña, Jr.. The facility has five modular sets with negative pressure rooms that can accommodate 110 patients.