IATF wants intensified contact tracing efforts

IATF wants intensified contact tracing efforts

MANILA – The government has issued new guidelines to step up the efforts to trace close contacts of individuals who are found to be positive for the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant, also known as the United Kingdom (UK) variant.

In a resolution approved on Thursday, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has ordered the expansion of contact tracing by including the third-generation contacts of people with the new variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

All close contacts also have to undergo a facility-based 14-day quarantine to limit the spread of new coronavirus variant, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Friday.

“All identified close contacts are required to undergo a strict facility-based 14-day quarantine while remaining contacts from the flight manifest shall be advised of the appropriate quarantine protocols,” Roque said.

Roque said the IATF-EID had ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to issue advisories to local government units (LGUs) to prepare and strengthen the maintenance of their quarantine facilities.

He added that the DILG was also directed to ensure the LGUs’ proper enforcement of StaySafe.ph, a contact tracing application launched by the national government to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

“Those who are found to be positive, apart from the prescribed testing and quarantine protocols, shall undergo whole genome sequencing to be conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), University of the Philippines Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the UP National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH),” Roque said.

Roque said a small working group, which will be led by DOH, would also be convened to resolve issues on funding, availability and use of quarantine facilities, and eventual handling by LGUs of arriving overseas Filipinos.

He said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Transportation’s One-Stop Shop should ensure that appropriate protocols are implemented for all those found to be positive of the new Covid-19 variant.

“In addition, the IATF approved the continuation of weekly genomic biosurveillance activities of the DOH, UP-PGC, UP-NIH among incoming passengers and local cases, prioritizing hospitalized patients, re-infected patients, and those in clusters,” Roque said.

The DOH on Wednesday confirmed the detection of the UK variant in the Philippines after samples from a 29-year-old Filipino male who returned home from the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 7 yielded positive genome sequencing results.

Contact tracing on the male patient’s close contacts has been immediately conducted to check if they also acquire the new coronavirus variant. (PNA)

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