The Quezon City local government has identified and is closely monitoring a total of 143 individuals who are considered contacts of the first Filipino infected with the new Covid-19 variant known as the UK variant.
According to Dr. Rolando Cruz, head of the City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit (CESU), 55 of them are first-generation close contacts, or individuals who have been within two meters of the infected person.
These include the more than 30 healthcare workers and barangay workers who assisted and cared for the patient when he was transferred from the quarantine hotel in Manila to the isolation facility in Quezon City after his Covid-19 positive test was released. This was five days before the Philippine Genome Center confirmed that he had the UK variant of the disease. All have been tested and are awaiting results in quarantine facilities.
Members of his household were also tested as a precautionary measure despite not having come into contact with the patient after he returned from Dubai on January 7. His partner who flew in from Dubai with him and tested negative, was also re-swabbed and is currently in an isolation facility.
Given reports that the UK variant is far more contagious than the original variant, the DOH is considering as close contacts all the passengers on Emirates flight EK 332. Among these passengers are eight residents of Quezon City. Cruz said all but one of the close contact passengers were re-swabbed yesterday (January 15), and are now under quarantine. These passengers were already swabbed once upon returning to the Philippines from the UAE.
“We are still looking for that one close contact passenger because the phone number and address indicated were incorrect,” said Cruz, adding that the CESU has asked the PNP and other relevant agencies for assistance. Mayor Joy Belmonte for her part is appealing to the Bureau of Quarantine, the agency overseeing the testing and isolation of returning Filipinos, to review its records so this individual could be located immediately.
Further, 88 other individuals were identified as second-generation close contacts or “contacts of the first close contacts.” Cruz says so far 11 of them have been swabbed. But all were advised to remain under home quarantine for 14 days. “We’re now waiting for the results of all the samples we sent to the Philippine Genome Center yesterday and the other day,” he added.
Mayor Belmonte meanwhile, strongly encourages all Filipinos returning from abroad, especially those from Quezon City, to observe the 14-day quarantine period, whether test results are positive or negative. “Now that we know the Covid-19 UK variant has reached our shores, we have to take extra precautions, especially when returning from overseas trips where there is an intermingling of different nationalities”. She also reminds all citizens to strictly observe minimum health standards at all times.