Malacañang on Thursday raised the possibility that the government might tighten the implementation of nationwide community quarantine following the detection of the first case of B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant, also known as the United Kingdom (UK) variant, in the Philippines.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said stricter quarantine measures might be imposed anew, considering that the UK variant is more infectious than the original coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) variant.
“May posibilidad po dahil mas nakakahawa itong new variant, mas madaming magkakasakit (There is a possibility because the new variant is more contagious, many might get infected with it),” Roque said in a virtual Palace press briefing.
A 29-year-old Filipino real estate agent who went to Dubai on Dec. 27 and returned to the Philippines on Jan. 7 tested positive for a new coronavirus variant that was first reported in the UK.
The male patient’s girlfriend who also flew to Dubai tested negative for Covid-19 upon arrival but is currently under strict quarantine and monitoring.
The government is now tracing the close contacts of the patient infected with the UK variant to check if they also acquired the new variant.
Roque said the declaration of new quarantine classifications in February would still depend on the “two-week attack rate and critical health care capacity.”
He said there might be no need to impose more stringent quarantine rules if the B.1.1.7 variant would only cause milder symptoms than the original Covid-19 variant.
“Pero kung hindi naman po sila magpapa-ospital dahil mild lang iyan, eh may posibilidad na hindi rin po magbabago ang quarantine classification (If people with the new variant would not be hospitalized because they only have mild symptoms, there is a possibility that the quarantine classification might not be reverted to a stricter one),” Roque said.
While the UK coronavirus strain is believed to be more contagious than the Covid-19 variant, there is no evidence yet that it causes more severe disease.
No local transmission
Despite the discovery of the first case of the UK variant in the Philippines, Roque ensured that there is no local transmission yet of the new variant in the country.
“Wala pa pong balita ng local transmission (There is no reported local transmission),” he said.
Roque, however, urged Filipinos to be more cautious by observing the government’s health protocols.
He reminded the public anew to heed President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to wear face mask, wash their hands, and practice physical distancing to avoid contracting Covid-19.
“Tignan na lang po natin ang pangyayari. Pero sa ngayon po, patuloy po ang panawagan ng ating Presidente: Mask, hugas, at iwas (Let’s see How it will develop. But for now, the President is still asking the public to wear mask, wash their hands, and observe physical distancing),” he said. (PNA)