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Various news reports cited that health experts in England, United Kingdom, first detected the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 strain called UK variant in Kent in September. It spread quickly. The new variant health experts said is more easily transmissible — the figure cited is from 50 percent to 70 percent fast spreading compared to the other strains of the coronavirus. More studies of the strain are being conducted. But although it may not actually lead to more severe cases, or being more lethal, medical experts were quoted as saying, yet its faster transmissibility could result in more people getting sick, hospitals being overwhelmed, thus potentially more fatalities. B.1.1.7 is now in more than 50 countries, territories, and areas. Add the Philippines whose coronavirus incidence is nearing the half million milestone.
By EDD K. USMAN
(SDN) — The coronavirus variant of the United Kingdom origin has reached the Philippines. It was first discovered from the European country, hence the name UK variant. new variant was carried by a Filipino traveler who went to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on a business trip on December 27, 2020, and returned to Manila on January 7, 2021
He arrived on board Emirates Airlines flight EK 332. Government authorities are currently contract-tracing some of his fellow passengers.
The government announced this in a press statement.
“Following strengthened surveillance and border control efforts, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) today confirm the detection of the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 (UK variant) in the country,” the DOH said on Wednesday, January 13.
The businessman who went to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member with his partner (who tested negative) is a resident of Quezon City as revealed by government health officials.
Dr. Rolly Cruz, head of the Quezon City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, confirmed the case of the resident in an interview morning of January 14 over radio DZRH.
The UK variant carrier, he said, went to a hotel from the airport for 14-day quarantine as being done to every arrival from abroad. He was swabbed and tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19). He tested positive on January 13.
After knowing he is positive, health authorities had his specimen analyzed further at the PGC where doctors discovered he was carrying the easily transmissible UK variant. He is now in isolation and watched with utmost care.
Hospitals, front-liners preparing for spread of UK variant
His female partner although with a negative test result is nonetheless on a strict quarantine.
Because of the confirmed entry of the coronavirus variant, which health experts say does not necessarily causes severe cases of Covid-19, hospitals and front-liners are now in utmost vigilance and preparing for any eventuality.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, echoing a health expert, said with the UK variant the country’s coronavirus cases could shoot up to 4,000 daily.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on a CNN Philippines broadcast lamented the early disclosure of the patient’s place of residence, which prompted other people to avoid the community. It has affected its market, shown almost empty.
Dr. Cruz assured the UK variant carrier did not step on his community, having been brought straight to a hotel for foreign arrivals’ mandatory quarantine, then to an isolation facility after he tested positive.
In relation with this new development in the Philippines’ battle against Covid-19, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III revealed he will recommend the UAE to be added in the no-travel list of countries with UK variant incidence.
Roque said the health chief’s recommendation would be taken up and likely to be granted.
Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the contract-tracing czar, also in the CNN Philippines broadcast, said contract-tracers are now looking for some fellow passengers of the Philippines’ first UK variant case.
He said the contract-tracers are having difficulty in their effort because some phone numbers of passengers can’t be contacted. Magalong suggested that more information should be given by travelers arriving in the Philippines, including address, nearest of kin’s phone numbers, among others, for easier search.
The DOH said the Philippines as of January 14 has 494,605 coronavirus cases with 9,739 fatalities, 459,252 recovered, and 25,614 active infections.
Worldwide the total is 92,145,530 cases and 1,975,736 patients succumbing to the pandemic. Data is from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) through the online Coronavirus Data Center. (✓)
Featured image thanks to Pradesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) on Unsplash.