Two passengers in quarantine in Cebu for suspected new variant
[UPDATED] CEBU CITY, Philippines — Samples from two passengers, who arrived in Cebu via Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) from Dubai and the United States, were sent to the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) to determine if they were infected with the new virus variant that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), regional health officials here announced.
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson of DOH-7, said in a virtual press conference on Friday, January 22, that they sent to the PGC specimen samples taken from a 54-year-old and 35-year-old men after both tested positive of COVID-19.
“We sent two samples to the Genomic Center for genomic sequencing… These samples are not from the six (co-passengers from Central Visayas of the first Filipino patient who contracted the more infectious virus),” said Loreche.
Citing records from health authorities, Loreche said they sent last January 7 specimen samples from a 35-year-old man, who arrived in Cebu from the United States. The patient was permitted entry since he held dual citizenship between here and the country where his flight originated, the DOH-7 noted.
“The patient from the United States turned out to be positive and his second swab sample was sent to PGC last January 7,” said Loreche.
The other patient, a 54-year-old man, a returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW), arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport sometime on January 15 and January 16, and he came from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, said Loreche.
Samples of the passenger from Dubai were sent to PGC, the country’s only genome center which is based in Quezon City, Metro Manila, last January 20.
Presently, DOH-7 said they were still waiting for the results.
“Both patients are still quarantined in a facility as we speak. They have been placed under isolation since their arrival,” Loreche noted.
According to Loreche, the two patients fit in DOH’s criteria in testing COVID-19 patients who are suspected to have been infected with the mutated variant of the virus.
“The individual must be travelling from a restricted country, tested positive through RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) upon entry in the Philippines, and if positive – cycle-threshold, which is the value of the viral load from the sample of an individual – has to be at 30 and below…” she said.
However, the patients, whose samples were subjected to genomic sequencing, may be released if their quarantine period has ended even if their results were not yet produced.
“The individuals have to be released even with pending results because, at the end of the day, they can no longer be infectious,” said Loreche.
The United States and Dubai are part of the Philippines’ list of restricted countries where cases of the more infectious variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have been documented.
In the meantime, DOH-7 is set to release this Saturday, January 23, the six passengers of Emirates Flight 332, who were found out to be close contacts of the Philippines’ first patient confirmed to have been infected with the new variant of the virus.
Loreche said all six individuals had already tested negative of COVID-19 twice, and that they remained asymptomatic as of January 22. /dbs
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