PH logs first death from UK variant
One of the Philippines’ 25 known cases of a highly contagious variant of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has died, and health authorities are still looking for the source of infection.
Twenty-two people who have positively tested for the virus variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom have already recovered, leaving only two others who are still infected, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.
The first known UK variant fatality was an 84-year-old from La Trinidad, Benguet province, who seldom left home, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The patient died in the third or fourth week of January, she said.
Seldom went out
“The [DOH] regional office said this person never went out, seldom, was just at home, had no other contacts. We’re looking at where the … infection came from,” Vergeire said in a media briefing on Monday.
In Baguio, Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the patient was male and he died of a heart attack in a hospital in the city on Jan. 24.
The fatality was La Trinidad’s third UK variant patient.
The test result showing the patient was infected with the UK variant was confirmed after his swab samples had gone through genome sequencing at the Philippine Genome Center in Quezon City.
Cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, which was reported by the United Kingdom last December, are being monitored globally since the variant has been observed to be more transmissible, although not more deadly.
The DOH has so far confirmed 25 UK variant cases in the country based on genome sequencing.
Vergeire said the source of infection in another case was also still unknown, but maintained there was no basis to declare community transmission of the UK variant since the source of the other known cases had been identified.
She said “further investigation” must be made before the DOH could confirm community transmission, which would mean cases of the UK variant were already widespread and the source of the virus variant could no longer be identified.
3 new cases
In Mountain Province, three new cases of the UK variant have been added to the 12 original carriers of the more infectious B.1.1.7 virus.
A local government team is investigating to determine how the variant got to and spread in Bontoc and La Trinidad.
“Most probably we have the UK variant here in [Baguio],” Magalong said.
He said health workers were closely monitoring the fatality’s relatives who lived in Baguio, as well as a city resident who caught the COVID-19 virus while attending a community event in Bontoc during the Christmas holidays.
The infection of some of Bontoc’s COVID-19 and UK variant patients has been traced to Yuletide gatherings.
Magalong said the parents of La Trinidad’s first UK variant patient were tied to Baguio because of their work.
“The father is a taxi driver who has made numerous trips to Baguio, while the mother is a manicurist with several clients in Baguio,” the mayor said.
The city’s surveillance team has yet to determine the source of the UK variant in the region, said Dr. Donnabel Tubera Panes, an infectious disease expert with the City Health Services Offices.
Panes said a link map pointed to food stores in Bontoc as the possible sources of transmissions. “That is not conclusive,” she said.
She said the latest assumption was based on the pattern of movement of Bontoc’s UK variant patients, as well as others who had caught COVID-19.
Among the new UK variant patients is a barangay health worker who infected her daughter. The third new case is a 31-year-old man, but his travel history does not link up with any of the other cases.
On Monday, the DOH recorded 1,690 additional coronavirus infections, bringing the overall number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to 538,995.
The DOH said 23 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 499,772.
But the death toll rose to 11,231 with the deaths of 52 other patients. Of those 52 fatalities, 46 had been previously tagged as recovered.
The deaths and recoveries left the country with 27,992 active cases, of which 88.5 percent were mild, 5.4 percent asymptomatic, 0.63 percent moderate, 2.7 percent severe, and 2.8 percent critically.
For the last 10 days, more than 50 COVID-19 deaths have been reported daily.
The DOH had said the high number of daily deaths since mid-January was due to delayed recording of cases, with incomplete information that needed to be checked with the Philippine Statistics Authority. —WITH A REPORT FROM VINCENT CABREZA INQ
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