6 travelers from India test positive for COVID-19, says DOH

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 05 2021 04:19 PM

6 travelers from India test positive for COVID-19, says DOH 1
Travellers wearing personal protective equipment as a precaution against COVID-19 arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Parañaque City on March 17, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - Six travelers from India who arrived in the Philippines before travel restrictions were imposed amid the surge in coronavirus infections there, have tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health said Wednesday.

Of the 117 travelers who are on quarantine, 6 were found to be carriers of the virus, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, without disclosing their nationalities.

"The samples have been submitted to the Philippine Genome Center," she said.

As of early last week, the so-called Indian coronavirus variant, which has been detected in other countries such as the United States, Australia, Israel, Switzerland and Singapore, has not yet been detected in the Philippines, according to Vergeire at the time.

It has been tagged a “double mutant” because of the presence of two notable mutations in the spike protein of the virus, which are said to allow the virus to easily gain entry into the human body and multiply faster.

So far, only the following COVID-19 variants have been detected in the country: B.1.1.7 (first detected in the UK), B.1.351 (first detected in South Africa), and P.3 (first detected in the Philippines).

The P.3 variant is not yet identified as a variant of concern since current data is insufficient to determine whether it will have significant public health implications, relevant agencies said.

Vergeire said the government is trying to locate 6 other travelers who stayed or passed through India, where recorded COVID-19 infections have already topped 20 million.

The DOH has yet to respond to queries whether all 117 travelers are Filipinos and why 1 passenger seems to be unaccounted for.

Last week, the Philippines temporarily banned the entry of all travelers, including Filipinos, from India, after the country reported hundreds of thousands of new COVID-19 cases in recent days.

The ban, which will stay for two weeks, exempts passengers already in transit from India or with recent travel history to the country, who arrive in the Philippines "before 0001H of April 29, 2021," according to Malacañang.

India has become the second country to cross the grim milestone of 20 million infections after the United states, with 382,315 new cases reported on Wednesday.

Its number of deaths also rose by a record 3,780 during the last 24 hours.

The surge of the highly infectious Indian variant of the coronavirus has seen hospitals run out of beds and oxygen, and left morgues and crematoriums overflowing. Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen.

As of May 3, at least 73 Filipinos in India have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Philippine Ambassador to India Ramon Bagatsin. Two of them succumbed to the disease.

- with report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News; and Reuters

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