NBI tapped to trace 2 more on same flight as PH's new COVID-19 variant 'patient zero'

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2021 02:46 PM | Updated as of Jan 25 2021 10:27 PM

ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Department of Health on Friday said it has sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation in finding 2 more passengers of the same Dubai-Manila flight that brought home the Filipino man who is considered as the country's first case of the new and more transmissible COVID-19 variant.

"We will be providing these 2 names to the NBI through the Department of Justice today para lang mahanap natin (so we could find them)," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters in a virtual briefing.

She said the NBI, the country's premier law enforcement agency, may be able to locate the 2 passengers from Metro Manila through their database.

They are the only ones left among 159 passengers, who arrived from the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 7, who have not been traced by authorities.

"Titignan natin baka mahanap natin through this kind of process," Vergeire said.

(Let's see if we can find them through this kind of process.)

Vergeire said the 2 passengers couldn't be reached with the contact details they had given. One wrote using a telephone number from abroad while the other could have written a wrong number.

The 2 passengers may have put the city and village they lived but there was no house number or street name provided in the contact form, she added. 

On Thursday night, a passenger of the same flight was found by police in Central Visayas.

"Hirap na hirap po tayo na maghanap ngayon pero ginagawa natin ang lahat ng paraan para mahanap sila," the health official said.

(We are having difficulty in locating them but we are doing everything to find them.)

Finding patient zero's contacts during the flight is critical to prevent the spread of the more contagious coronavirus strain. 

To date, 14 contacts of the index case of the UK coronavirus variant tested positive for the virus: 12 were passengers of the same flight, including the man's girlfriend, one relative and a health care worker.

Authorities have yet to determine what strain of the virus they had contracted.

Vergerie said they were in talks with other national agencies on how to further improve the country's contact tracing system.

Under Republic Act 11332 or Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern or those having the notifiable disease are prohibited.

Violators may face jail term of not more than 6 months and fine of up to P50,000 or both.