'Patient zero' of new COVID-19 variant in PH now asymptomatic: QC mayor

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 16 2021 12:22 PM | Updated as of Jan 16 2021 12:29 PM

MANILA - After previously showing symptoms of pneumonia, the country's first case of the new COVID-19 variant is now asymptomatic and is waiting for medical clearance, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said Saturday. 

In a public press briefing, Belmonte said the 29-year-old male patient, currently isolated in a Quezon City facility, is "doing quite well" and no longer needed to be sent to hospital.

"Asymptomatic po siya, wala na po siyang mga sintomas, at hinihintay po natin na itapos ang kaniyang antibiotics and madeklara ng doktor na he is well. He is actually OK. Hindi na siya kinailangang ilipat sa ospital," Belmonte said. 

(He is asymptomatic. He does not have any more symptoms and we are waiting for him to finish his antibiotics and a doctor's declaration that he is well. He is actually OK. He did not need to be moved into a hospital.) 

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"That proves of course na while data shows na itong variant na ito ay nakakahawa and that is actually what we are preparing for pero the effects ay hindi naman mas grabe doon sa original COVID-19 virus," Belmonte added. 

(That proves that while this variant is said to be more contagious and that is what we are actually preparing for, its effects are not more severe than the original COVID-19 virus.)

It was on Thursday evening, January 13, when the Department of Health said that the COVID-19 variant has been detected in the patient who had flown back to the Philippines from the United Arab Emirates.

The patient, a resident of Barangay Kamuning, Quezon City left for Dubai for business purposes last December 27 and returned to the Philippines on January 7 via Emirates Flight No. EK 332. 

The patient was immediately swabbed and quarantined in a hotel upon arrival and did not go to his residence, Belmonte reiterated. She earlier allayed concerns of a possible community exposure.

QC health authorities previously said the patient had pneumonia upon arrival to the quarantine facility. 

His girlfriend, who was with him en route to the Philippines, has also been screened for the disease and is waiting for results. 

About 143 of the 156 people who had contact with the patient have already been reached by government contact tracers, the Department of Health previously said. 

Of the 8 Quezon City residents the local government declared as contacts of the passenger, one has yet to be reached, Belmonte said.

She noted that the QC City Epidemiology Services Unit (CESU) visited the addresses of the remaining close contacts but were told that they do not live in the said locations.

Those exposed to patient but are uncooperative in contact tracing protocols may face sanctions, the DOH previously warned. 

The Philippines has imposed a travel ban on 35 countries where the new COVID-19 variant had spread to prevent further cases in the country.