Sixteen more cases of the UK strain of COVID-19 were detected in the Philippines, the Department of Health said late Friday evening.
Twelve of the 16 were recorded in Bontoc, Mountain Province, Bontoc Mayor Franklin Odsey said in a statement posted in the municipality’s Facebook page.
The DOH said two are overseas Filipino workers returning from Lebanon who were aboard Philippine Airlines Flight PR 8661. The first case is a 64-year old female whose indicated local address is Jaro, Iloilo City. The patient was isolated in San Juan, Metro Manila and discharged on January 9. The other is a 47-year old Filipina whose reported local address is Binangonan, Rizal and was quarantined in New Clark City and discharged from isolation on January 13.
The remaining two are from La Trinidad in Benguet and Calamba in Laguna.
“Both have no known contact to any confirmed case or travel history from outside the country. One is currently admitted in a Benguet Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility, while the 23-year-old male in Laguna has been discharged after receiving a negative result on January 16,” the DOH said in a statement.
These brought to 17 the number of COVID-19 infections found to be of the more transmissible UK variant.
“Contact tracing was immediately initiated to contain the spread of the infection. Investigation is also underway to identify these cases’ exposure and travel histories,” the DOH said.
Of the additional 16 cases with B.1.1.7 variant detected, three have already recovered while 13 are active cases, three of which are asymptomatic and 10 are exhibiting mild symptoms.
The department said of the 12 cases in Bontoc, seven are male and five are female. Three are aged below 18 years old while three are above 60.
“The Bontoc LGU urges everyone to intensify adherence to basic health protocols. Lockdown is still in effect. Rest assured that the LGU is doing its best to help deter further spread,” Odsey said.
The DOH said earlier Friday it had sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation in locating two more passengers of the same Dubai-Manila flight that brought home the Filipino man considered as the country’s first case of the new and more transmissible variant.
“We will be providing these two names to the NBI through the Department of Justice today para lang mahanap natin (so we could find them),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.
Vergeire said the NBI, the country’s premier law enforcement agency, might be able to locate the two passengers from Metro Manila through their database.
They are the only ones left among 159 passengers, who arrived from the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 7, who have not been traced by authorities.
“Let’s see if we can find them through this kind of process,” Vergeire said, adding the two could not be reached with the contact details they had given.
One wrote using a telephone number from abroad while the other could have written a wrong number.
The two passengers may have put the city and village they lived in but there was no house number or street name provided in the contact form, she added.
On Thursday night, a passenger of the same flight was found by police in Central Visayas.
“We are having difficulty in locating them but we are doing everything to find them,” the health official said.
Finding patient zero’s contacts during the flight is critical to prevent the spread of the more contagious coronavirus strain.
To date, 14 contacts of the index case of the UK coronavirus variant tested positive for the virus: 12 were passengers of the same flight, including the man’s girlfriend, one relative and a health care worker.
Authorities have yet to determine what strain of the virus they had contracted.
Vergeire said they were in talks with other national agencies on how to further improve the country’s contact tracing system.
Under Republic Act 11332 or Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern or those having the notifiable disease are prohibited.
Violators may face jail term of not more than 6 months and fine of up to P50,000 or both.
Meanwhile, the Quezon City government said the resident who tested positive for the UK coronavirus disease 2019 variant had tested negative based on his latest swab test.
Dr. Rolly Cruz, City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit chief, said the doctors at the Hope quarantine facility where the 29-year-old patient was staying would make a final assessment before he would be declared fully recovered.
“After that, he would be allowed to reunite with his family and reintegrate with the community,” he said. But the patient would still remain under strict health monitoring for at least two weeks.
Mayor Joy Belmonte warned the community against discrimination, saying it was punishable under the city’s existing anti-discrimination ordinance.
“At this point, let us not give discrimination a place in ourselves because it will do us no good, and that would only aggravate the situation,” she said.
“Instead of getting disgusted, let us show our love to them and let them feel that we are happy that they have recovered,” she added.
The UK COVID-19 patient returned to the Philippines from Dubai with his girlfriend on Jan. 7.
Upon arrival, he went through the mandatory testing and 14-day quarantine.
After he tested positive for COVID-19, his sample was sent to Philippine Genome Center for analysis where it was discovered that he had the UK variant.
The resident’s girlfriend and mother, together with 14 other passengers on the same flight, also tested positive for COVID-19.
Their test results were also sent to the Philippine Genome Center for analysis if they had the UK variant.