MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday confirmed the detection of 18 more cases of the highly infectious United Kingdom variant of the coronavirus.
The DOH said the 18 new cases brought to 62 the total number of UK variant cases recorded in the country.
The 18 additional B117 variant cases were among the seventh batch of 757 samples sequenced by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) on Feb. 18, according to the DOH.
Of the number, 13 are returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) who entered the country between Jan. 3 and 27.
All of the ROFs are now tagged as recovered. The DOH is currently investigating compliance with isolation protocols and the contact tracing done for these ROFs.
The other three B117 cases are from the Cordillera Administrative Region, two of whom are 12-year-old males. They are connected to the original cluster from Samoki, Bontoc, Mountain Province. The third case, a 41-year-old female, is connected to the first La Trinidad cluster.
All three cases are now tagged as recovered and all close contacts have completed quarantine following immediate contact tracing and isolation to swiftly contain transmission among the Bontoc and La Trinidad clusters.
The DOH is still verifying whether the remaining two newly detected cases are local cases or ROFs.
As this developed, the agency reported that an additional sample from Central Visayas belonging to the sixth genome sequencing batch was found to have both N501Y and E484K mutations, while two among the 80 samples sequenced in the seventh batch were also found to have both mutations, bringing the total to 34.
The DOH said the Center for Health Development in Central Visayas has been notified of the additional cases found with mutations and investigation is now underway to aid in curbing transmission.
Case investigation and contact tracing are ongoing for these new detections.
A report on the new findings shall be submitted to the World Health Organization and the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data to aid in the ongoing global effort to track and study new and emerging genomic changes in the SARS-COV-2 virus, which vaccine manufacturers may use to recalibrate vaccines and ensure efficacy against COVID-19, according to the DOH.
Local government units (LGUs) where cases with the variant of concern and mutations with potential clinical significance have been detected were also asked to closely monitor their respective local situations and implement preventive measures.
The DOH further called on LGUs to immediately flag sharp upticks in cases to activate targeted bio-surveillance activities.
Meanwhile, confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide yesterday reached 561,169 as the DOH logged additional 1,888 cases.
The agency said newly recorded 9,737 recoveries brought to 93.3 percent or 522,843 the number of those who survived from the infection.
Active cases stand at 26,238, which account for 4.7 percent of the total cases. The bulk of 93.3 percent of the active cases are mild and asymptomatic.
The number of COVID-related deaths rose to 12,088 with the inclusion of 20 more fatalities. Deaths represent 2.15 percent of the total cases.
The National Capital Region (NCR) topped the regions with the most number of active and new cases, followed by Central Visayas and CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon).
Among those who tested positive, according to the DOH, are 14,744 health care workers and 13,698 ROFs.
As of last Friday, over eight million individuals had been tested with a 7.82 percent positivity rate.