1 of newly confirmed UK variant cases linked to MRT COVID-19 cluster, says DOH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2021 12:45 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2021 09:38 PM

The MRT-3 depot in Quezon City. Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — One of the additional UK variant cases announced last week is from Metro Manila and is linked to the cluster of COVID-19 cases in the MRT, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the case involves a 46-year-old female from Pasay City.

“And connected po siya sa cluster ng MRT cases natin, yung MRT employees. Kasi, yung anak niya was from the MRT, nagtatrabaho doon,” Vergeire said in a virtual briefing.

(She is connected to the MRT cases cluster, or those involving MRT employees, because her child works at the MRT.)

The health official said the woman tested positive on January 25 and is currently undergoing home quarantine. 

The DOH regional office in the National Capital Region is already investigating the case.

The DOH has yet to respond if the other MRT cases will undergo genome sequencing to check for the more transmissible UK variant. It also has yet to confirm if this is the first UK variant case in Metro Manila.

In late January, a large number of MRT personnel were placed under quarantine after more than 40 employees tested positive. One of them died.

Last Friday, the DOH announced 19 more UK variant cases, with 6 of them still undetermined if they are returning Filipinos or local cases.

The woman from Pasay is one of the six, and the remaining five are the following:

  • a 20-year-old female from Mountain Province who tested positive for COVID-19 during a pre-departure test while in NCR last January 12;
  • a 37-year-old male from Bukidnon who underwent training in Metro Manila before testing positive for COVID-19 on January 25;
  • a 25-year-old female from Dasmariñas, Cavite who tested positive on January 31;
  • a 47-year-old female from Las Piñas who returned to the country from Morocco on January 12 and tested positive for COVID-19 upon initial swabbing; and,
  • a 49-year-old male from Rizal who is still being investigated.

NO COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION YET

Asked if the increase in cases in other parts of the country is due to community transmission of the UK variant, Vergeire said, “For this B.1.1.7 or the UK variant, wala pa ho tayong sapat na ebidensya para makapagsabi that we have already community transmission of this variant.”

(For this B.1.1.7 or the UK variant, we don’t have enough evidence yet to say that we already have community transmission of this variant.)

Vergeire admitted that the samples gathered by the government “is still not at that level (that can) provide us with the predictive factor for community transmission.”

She said they have faced challenges in transporting COVID-19 samples from Visayas and Mindanao because of the different protocols implemented by different airlines, which is why the DOH has already asked the help of the Office of Civil Defense for the next run of samples.

Vergeire said the DOH is expecting the next genome sequencing result to come out this week.

The first UK COVID-19 variant case in the Philippines was confirmed last month, involving a 29-year-old male resident of Quezon City who traveled to Dubai in December and returned on Jan. 7.

As of Friday, the Philippines has recorded 44 of such cases.

Overall, the country has logged 550,860 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Monday, including 27,588 active infections, 511,755 recoveries, and 11,517 deaths.

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