No need for harsher quarantine protocols despite discovery of new Covid strain in Phl—DoH

No need for harsher quarantine protocols despite discovery of new Covid strain in Phl—DoH

By Tracy Cabrera

The government wants to keep the Philippines free from the new COVID-19 variant by banning foreign travelers from countries with such cases. File photo shows overseas Filipino workers being interviewed upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 in Pasay City.

MANILA — Even with the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 that is reportedly 56 percent more transmissible and the recent information that it has already reached the Philippines, government authorities assured the public that there will be no additional or harsher protocols to be imposed in order to prevent its spread among the populace.

The new coronavirus strain—officially known as VUI-202012/01 or lineage B117—is said to have originated from the United Kingdom and thought to be 70 percent more transmissible than previously circulating variants.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health (DoH) confirmed that it found the variant in a 28-year-old real estate agent living in Kamuning, Quezon City who went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a business trip from December 27 last year to January 7 the current year.
DoH said the agent tested positive a day after arriving back to the country from Dubai in UAE. He reportedly went there with his girlfriend who later tested negative of Covid-19. But this did not prevent the health department to issue a warning that the new Covid strain could raise the country’s total caseload by 15-fold.

With this in view, however, health secretary Francisco Duque insisted that there is no need to impose harsher health safety measures as an escalation of the general community quarantine would depend on an increase in the daily average attack rates, two-week growth rate, and hospital and health-care capacity system use.

“As of now, we don’t have that kind of signal yet to elevate the current community quarantine (status),” Duque said at a news briefing.

Still, health experts said that it wouldn’t hurt if local governments exercise their power to impose limited lockdowns if there is a surge of cases in their communities.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also noted that quarantine classifications are set monthly by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, and said any changes to these would depend on the two-week attack rate and critical care capacity.

“There is the possibility that more people would get sick because the new variant is more contagious. But if they would not be hospitalized because their cases are mild, it is possible that the quarantine restrictions won’t change,” Roque pointed out.

Government has banned the entry of foreigners from countries that have reported cases of the UK and South African variants of Covid-19 or the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 or SARS-CoV-2.

Following the discovery of the entry of the new coronavirus variant in the Philippines, University of the Philippines-Octa Research Group reported on Thursday, January 14, that there was no active transmission of the Covid-19 virus in Metro Manila, after the reproduction rate of the bug increased in December.

Octa fellow Dr. Butch Ong said the reproduction rate of the virus in Metro Manila now was 1.10 to 1.17, up from below 1 in December.

“This means it is now being actively transmitted in the community,” Ong said at a news briefing.

He said the reproduction rate in December was below 1 because the testing laboratories were operating at only 45 percent capacity.

Now they have resumed full operations, and this means the reproduction rate of the virus is more reflective of the actual situation, Ong said.

Outside the metropolis, he said, increases have been reported by Davao del Sur, Isabela, Quezon, Misamis Oriental, Pangasinan, Agusan del Sur, Negros Oriental, Cebu City and Zamboanga del Sur. He said, however, that he could not tell whether the increases meant coronavirus infections had reached ‘surge level’. (AI/MTVN)

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