DOH confirms local transmission of UK COVID-19 variant in Bontoc

Bonz Magsambol
DOH confirms local transmission of UK COVID-19 variant in Bontoc

LOCAL TRANSMISSION. This file photo shows a community in Maligcong, Bontoc.

File photo from Shutterstock

The Department of Health says there is still 'no strong evidence of community transmission' of the new variant in the country

The Department of Health (DOH) late Monday night, January 25, confirmed local transmission of the more infectious variant of COVID-19 in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

In a statement sent to media, the DOH said that it identified the linkages of the 12 cases of the new variant through genome sequencing.

“To date, all identified cases with the UK variant can be epidemiologically linked to cases coming directly from outside the country (importation) or from specific cases or exposures that can still be identified (local transmission),” it said.

Genomic sequencing is the process of analyzing the virus sample taken from a diagnosed patient and comparing it with other cases to see whether those who tested positive for COVID-19 have the new variant. 

Meanwhile, the DOH said that there was “no strong evidence of community transmission” of the new variant yet, which was based on the criteria set by the World Health Organization such as “appearance of a large number of cases, occurrence of case clusters in multiple areas, and inability to link cases to known sources of infection.”

On Friday, January 22, the DOH reported the 12 cases of the United Kingdom (UK) COVID-19 variant in Mountain Province, saying these cases were among the 16 new cases of the UK variant in the country.

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‘Backward tracing exposures’

The DOH said that the clustering of cases in Barangay Samoki in Bontoc was reported to have begun with the returning Filipino from UK who arrived in the town with his wife on December 14 through a private vehicle after testing negative for COVID-19.

“While in Bontoc, he mingled with relatives and neighbors, traveled to Sagada, and attended a ‘mangmang’ when he went back to Bontoc. Abdominal symptoms prompted consult and subsequent PCR testing which turned positive. His sample was sent to UP-PGC but was negative for the B117 variant,” it said.

The DOH clarified that the returning Filipino was not the index case of the UK variant there.

“While we have identified linkages of cases to the traveler from the UK, said traveler was negative for the B117 variant and his wife was negative on PCR test,” it said. (READ: 144 close contacts identified in 12 UK variant cases in Bontoc)

“The Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) and local government unit are currently backward tracing exposures and travel histories of cases to identify other possible source/s of infection,” it said.

It added that local authorities were also “identifying and interviewing other” returning overseas Filipinos who recently arrived in Bontoc to determine their health, laboratory, and quarantine status.

The country confirmed its first known case of the UK variant on January 13 in a Filipino male resident from Quezon City who traveled to Dubai on December 27 and returned to Manila on January 7. The DOH said he already tested negative for COVID-19.

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The UK variant known as B117 was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020. In November, around a quarter of the reported COVID-19 cases in the country were found to be of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Philippines has so far detected 17 cases of the UK variant–

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.