Following strengthened biosurveillance and border control efforts, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) today officially confirm the detection of the B.1.1.7. SARS-CoV-2 variant (UK variant) in the country after samples from a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 7 yielded positive genome sequencing results.
The said patient is a male resident of Quezon City who departed for Dubai on December 27, 2020 for business purposes and arrived in the Philippines last January 7, 2021 via Emirates Flight No. EK 332. The patient was swabbed and quarantined in a hotel upon arrival. The positive test result was released the following day and the patient was referred to a quarantine facility in Quezon City while his samples were sent to PGC for whole genome sequencing. The patient was also accompanied by his female partner during his trip, but she tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 upon arrival. The female is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring.
Both of the returning Filipinos had no exposure to a confirmed case prior to their departure to Dubai nor had any travel activities outside Quezon City (QC). Immediate contact tracing was done in close coordination with the QC government, and the initially identified contacts are asymptomatic and currently under strict home quarantine. The DOH continues to work closely with the QC LGU to ensure timely and effective measures are in place to mitigate transmission.
The DOH has also secured the flight manifest of the flight in question and contact tracing of other passengers is now underway. The DOH advises those who were aboard Emirates Flight No. EK 332 to get in touch with their BHERTs.
Meanwhile, weekly genomic biosurveillance among incoming passengers, local cases, re-infected patients, and those with reported clustering of cases will be intensified. The DOH has also coordinated with the Department of Interior and Local Government for the expansion of contact tracing to include third-generation close contacts for known B.1.1.7 cases. All close contacts of confirmed B.1.1.7 cases shall also undergo strict 14-day facility-based quarantine.
The DOH reiterates its call to our national government agencies, local government units and the public for stricter observance of the minimum public health standards and stricter implementation of quarantine protocols to further mitigate the risk of acquiring the virus and slow down possible mutations.