AMID speculations that the UK variant (B.1.1.7) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is already in the Philippines, the Department of Health and the Philippine Genome Center yesterday said the new strain of the coronavirus disease has not yet been detected in the country.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III disclosed that based on the lineage analysis through whole genome sequencing done by the PGC, the UK variant was not detected in any of the 305 positive samples submitted to them from nine institutions.
The 305 samples analyzed by PGC were composed of positive samples from November-December hospital admissions and from inbound travelers who tested positive upon arrival at the airport.
Duque further said that the DOH is in close coordination with Hong Kong’s International Health Regulations focal point to secure official notification and other pertinent information regarding the Hong Kong resident who tested positive for the variant following travel history from the Philippines.
Hong Kong Center for Health Protection Communicable Disease Branch head Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan said a traveler from the Philippines who arrived in Hong Kong on PAL flight PR300 on December 22 tested positive for the new variant.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) said the passenger who was reported to have tested positive for the UK variant presented a negative test result before taking the Manila-Hong Kong flight on December 22 as part of the requirements of the Hong Kong government.
PAL said it is now working with the government to conduct contact tracing efforts and turned over to the Bureau of Quarantine the necessary information that will enable them to carry out the contact tracing procedures on passengers of the PAL flight.
Duque said they have received the name and address of the passenger and have started the contact tracing procedures. He said the crew and flight attendants will also be included in the contact tracing.
Meanwhile, Duque called on all local government units and transport regulators to continuously implement the health protocols in all settings.
“Strictly following the minimum public health standards or MPHS is still the best measure to cut transmission of the variant and minimize the opportunities for virus mutation,” he said.