DOH ‘backward tracing’ for actual source of UK variant in Bontoc
MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday evening confirmed local transmission of the new and more transmissible COVID-19 variant in Bontoc, Mountain Province.
“The Department of Health confirms local transmission in Bontoc of the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2 as identified through genomic sequencing,” the DOH said in a statement, referring to the variant first detected in the United Kingdom.
“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),” the DOH said.
However, it said there is “no strong evidence of community transmission,” based on the definition of the World Health Organization. According to the WHO, community transmission refers to a large number of cases, case clusters in multiple areas and “inability to link cases to known sources of infection.”
It also revised the initial information it released on Monday morning that the “index case” or possible source of infections in Bontoc was a Filipino who came from the United Kingdom.
The DOH clarified that the man, who arrived in Bontoc in December, tested positive for COVID-19 but negative for the new variant. His wife, who accompanied him to Bontoc, tested negative for COVID-19. The cluster of cases in Brgy. Samoki in Bontoc was previously reported to have begun with the man.
A total of 46 contacts linked to the man, who “mingled with relatives and neighbors” and attended a traditional ritual in Bontoc, tested positive for COVID-19. But while the man was negative for the variant, 12 of the 46 had the UK variant in their samples. There are 28 more that are awaiting genome sequencing.
The cases were linked through infections in households, workplaces and public places in the community.
Since the man was negative for the UK variant, “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,” the DOH said.
The DOH said the RESU is also interviewing other returning Filipinos who recently arrived in Bontoc.
“There is ongoing contact tracing of contacts up to the 3 generation for these B.1.1.7 variant cases. Samples from contacts not tested or negative on first test are being collected for PCR testing and sequencing, for eligible samples,” the DOH said.
There are currently 17 UK variant cases in the Philippines with the other detected in different provinces in the country.
The DOH reiterated that while the UK variant has been linked to increased transmissibility, it is not believed to cause more severe or fatal cases. It reminded the public of the importance of completing the 14-day isolation period.