ONE of 79 passengers that arrived in the Philippines from the United Kingdom has tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III announced on Saturday.
Duque said that out of the 59 test results reported on Friday, 53 tested negative while 23 are still pending cases. He added, however, that it is yet to be determined if the passenger was infected with the new fast-spreading strain that has emerged in the United Kingdom.
“Pero ‘yung testing po nito, hindi po nangangahulugan na ito na ‘yung new variant dahil magasasagawa pa pong pagsusuri ang atin pong mga eksperto mula sa Philippine Genome Center,” he said.
Duque also said current evidence suggests that the new COVID-19 strain has a “70 percent higher transmissibility” but there is no evidence yet that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death
Meanwhile, Duque said the passengers were brought to the New Clark City in Tarlac to complete their 14-day quarantine. He added their swab samples were sent to the Philippine Genome Center and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for further study.
Duque added that the passengers arrived before the suspension of all flights from the UK took effect. The suspension started on Dec. 24, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and was originally set to end on Dec. 31, 2020. However, President Rodrigo Duterte extended the travel ban for two more weeks.
More than 40 countries, not including the United States, suspended travel from Britain in a bid to contain a fast-spreading new strain of the coronavirus, which was first found in September and began to spread rapidly in October.
Meanwhile, Duque said that 12 countries in the Western Pacific region reported positive cases from the United Kingdom such as Hongkong, China, Singapore, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Solomon Islands, Vietnam, Australia, Taiwan, and Cambodia.
Among these, Australia, Hongkong, Japan and Singapore reported cases based on the new strain of COVID-19
“Samantalang wala pang kaso mula sa new variant ang naitala sa Pilipinas. Ngunit nais ko pong tukuyin ang limitasyon ng datos na ito. Ito po ay mula sa mga official sites lamang kung saan ang datos ay patuloy na nagbabago o inaayos,” the health chief said.