The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday said it is too early to say whether there is already local transmission of B.1.1.7 SARS-Cov-2 (United Kingdom) variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the country.

Too early to tell? DOH claims no community transmission yet of COVID-19 variant from UK

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The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday said it is too early to say whether there is already local transmission of B.1.1.7 SARS-Cov-2 (United Kingdom) variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the country.

“Considering that investigation is ongoing, it may be premature for us now to determine whether there is community transmission, we need to wait for the results of the investigation,” Dr. Celia Carlos, director of Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) of the DOH, said in a virtual presser.

This came as the DOH reported on Friday night that a total of 17 Covid-19 UK variant cases have been detected in the country.

Infectious disease expert and director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at UP-National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr. Edsel Salvana said they have been looking at samples back from October, November, and December.

He said that this is to make sure that there was no widespread transmission of the new Covid-19 variant in the country.

He added that they have not seen anything from the October to November samples, while one was detected in the December samples.

Salvana said right now, they have not seen any evidence of local transmission.

“Right now there’s no evidence of that dahil meron tayong isang cluster lang na alam naman natin na magkaka related sila and then we have to find where that person siguro kung ano yung common source nun (we have one cluster but we know that they are all relatives and we have to find their common source),” Salvana said.

Out of the 16 new cases of the UK variant reported on Friday, 12 were from Bontoc, Mountain Province — seven males and five females.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the other two cases are returning overseas Filipinos from Lebanon, one of whom has a local address in Jaro, Iloilo and the other is from Binangonan, Rizal.

Meanwhile, the two other cases are from La Trinidad, Benguet, and Calamba, Laguna.

Vergeire said of the additional 16 new cases with B 1.1.7 variant recorded, three have recovered, 13 are active cases, three of whom are asymptomatic and 10 have mild symptoms.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III noted that the fact the UK variant in the country was detected early means that the country’s biosurveillance efforts are working.

Contact tracing

Vergeire said they are contact tracing up to the second and third generation contacts of the UK variant positive cases.

Second generation contact refers to those who have been in close contact with the Covid-19 positive patient while the third generation is the contacts of their contacts.

Meanwhile, both Duque and testing czar, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, reiterated the importance of contact tracing most especially by the local government units.

Magalong said it came to their knowledge that contact tracing of La Trinidad in Benguet is not well established.

He said they are talking to the Benguet provincial government to strengthen their border control with the Mountain Province.

With the UK variant already detected in the Mountain Province, Magalong said that he can safely assume that the UK variant is already in Baguio as residents of Mountain Province and Benguet come to Baguio.

He reiterated that to effectively control the spread of Covid-19, contact tracing must be strengthened.

“If only LGUs have the mindset to really expand they will hit a 1 is to 37 contact tracing. Simple logic: low testing equals low contact tracing equals low cases. No testing equals no contact tracing equals no cases,” he said.

Magalong said some local chief executives tend to politicize everything and make it appear that they are managing the Covid-19 situation in their localities.

He asked LGU officials to be consistent with their testing and contact tracing efforts.

He said the Philippine National Police has offered their help to the LGUs in terms of contact tracing but were rejected.

“The PNP is already involved in contact tracing. It’s on the LGU’s. Maraming LGU ang nire-reject sila laging sagot is kaya na namin at nafu-frustrate ang PNP (Many LGUs are rejecting the help being offered by the PNP saying that they can manage by themselves and the PNP is becoming frustrated),” he said.

He said the PNP has investigative skills that local health officials may not have, adding that LGU’s should be open to the idea of tapping police personnel. (PNA)

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POLITIKO / Across the Nation

POLITIKO / Latest News

May parusa ‘pag umayaw! AFP requires soldiers to be vaccinated vs COVID-19

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) inoculation is mandatory for all of its personnel but they have the option to choose among vaccine brands other than Sinovac at their own expense.

“Thus, to get inoculated or not is not an option for the members of the AFP, it is a duty. At the most, the exercise of an option will be the option to as to what brand of vaccine they will be availing of, but the cost of which will not be paid by the AFP,” AFP spokesperson, Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in an online press briefing.

Malacañang earlier announced that the first batch of Sinovac Biotech vaccines composed of 600,000 doses donated by China is set to arrive on Sunday (Feb. 28), with 100,000 doses of which will be given to the Department of National Defense, the AFP’s mother agency.

Aside from military personnel, Arevalo added that their chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana has said that their dependents must be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, those opting for other vaccine brands who decided to forego their inoculation can do so but once they are called to duty to serve as front-liners, they will have no choice but to follow.

“They must perform their duties and task but they will have to resort to the traditional health protocol, mag-mask, mag-shield, maghugas ng kamay at mag-maintain ng social distance pansamantala habang hindi pa sila natuturukan ng vaccine na pinipili nila (like the wearing of mask, face shields, regularly washing their hands, and maintaining social distance while they are yet to be vaccinated with the brand of their choice),” Arevalo said.

Meanwhile, said AFP personnel assigned and performing duties that will expose them to Covid-19 patients are required to have themselves vaccinated with the available vaccines.

He added that the AFP will play three major roles in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine — security, medical and logistics support operations. (PNA)

Payag ba sa barter? Bello waiting for UK’s response to PH offer to deploy more healthcare workers

MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is waiting for the response of the United Kingdom (UK) on its proposed provision of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine amid UK’s request for an exemption from the deployment cap of Filipino healthcare workers (HCWs).

In a telephone interview on Thursday, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they expect the UK government to respond on the issue within 10 days.

“I told them for me to be able to recommend it to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases), I have to be assured of the safety of our workers. The only way we can be assured about the safety of our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) is (through) the vaccine,” he said.

Bello said the UK may want to send the coronavirus vaccines so the country can immunize the nurses before they are deployed.

“For us to be able to send our medical workers, we want to ensure that they are safe and their health is secured. We don’t have the vaccine, if they want, they can send us (vaccine),” he added.

Bello said he did not provide specific quantities of the vaccines.

“Why not include all OFWs and not just HCWs. In case they are ready to give us the vaccines, I will give them the number of OFWs that will be vaccinated. I just want to be sure that those who will be deployed have received the vaccine,” he added.

The Philippine government is asking the UK and Germany to provide vaccines against Covid-19 for OFWs as part of the agreement in relation to the deployment of health service workers, particularly nurses.

The country has two bilateral agreements with the UK in 2002 and 2003.

The UK and Germany are seeking to be exempted from the 5,000 cap on the deployment of nurses being implemented by the government to ensure there is an adequate number of nurses in the country in case the need arises.

Meanwhile, Bello said he understands the reaction of the people on the issue.

“They thought I would barter our nurses with the vaccine. I just hope that before they accuse me, they should have asked me first and look at what really happened. They just criticized and what they are saying is not true,” he added. (PNA)



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