The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Friday night, January 22, that it detected 16 new cases of the more infectious United Kingdom (UK) COVID-19 variant in the country, bringing total infections of the new variant to 17.
The DOH said that Friday's reported cases include the 12 cases in Mountain Province earlier announced by Bontoc Mayor Franklin Odsey.
"Biosurveillance is in place, and we will continue to expand our capacities to detect all COVID-19 variants of public health importance," the DOH said.
To ramp up the country's monitoring for the new COVID-19 variants, the DOH said last week that it had started its biogenomic surveillance or collection of samples from the vulnerable and at-risk sectors that will undergo genome sequencing.
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.
The Philippine Genome Center is doing the genome sequencing in batches. The DOH earlier said that it would collect samples of those positive for COVID-19 to check the presence of the new variant.
Here's the summary of cases of the new variant reported on Friday:
The DOH said that of the 12 cases in Bontoc, 7 are male and 5 are female. Three are aged below 18 years old, and another 3 are above 60.
"Contact tracing was immediately initiated to contain the spread of the infection. Investigation is also underway to identify these cases' exposure and travel histories," it added.
Two of the cases are overseas Filipino workers from Lebanon who arrived in the country on December 29. They were aboard Philippine Airlines flight PR 8661.
Lebanon was included in the travel restrictions due to the detection of the new variant in the country.
"Both have no known contact to any confirmed case or travel history from outside the country," the DOH said.
The DOH said that of the 16 cases, 3 have already recovered while 13 are active cases (3 asymptomatic, 10 exhibiting mild symptoms).
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.
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 the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The pandemic has so far infected over 97 million people globally. In the Philippines, a total of 509,887 have been infected as of Friday, with 10,136 deaths and 467,720 recoveries. Of the total, 32,031 are active cases. – Rappler.com