16 New Cases of Highly Contagious COVID-19 Strain Found in Northern Philippines

Jojo Rinoza
Dagupan, Philippines
16 New Cases of Highly Contagious COVID-19 Strain Found in Northern Philippines A city hall employee (left) in Manila takes part in a vaccination simulation, ahead of the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, Jan. 19, 2021.

The Philippines said on Friday it had detected 16 new cases of the highly contagious so-called U.K.-variant of the coronavirus in its northern region.

This brings to 17 the number of infections from the new COVID-19 variant detected in the Southeast Asian nation, the Philippine Department of Health said in a statement about the strain that is said to be 70 percent more transmissible than the old one.

Twelve of the 16 newly infected people are from Bontoc, a town in the Mountain Province in the north, the department said.

“Of these 12 cases, seven are male, five are female, three are aged below 18 years old and another three are above 60,” the health department said.

Two of the new infections with the new coronavirus strain are “local cases” in persons who had no known contacts with anyone confirmed to have COVID-19, the department said.

 Two other new cases were detected in Filipino workers who returned last month from Lebanon – one of about 30 countries included in a list of nations and territories whose citizens are temporarily banned from entering the Philippines, the department said.

Overseas Filipinos returning from the proscribed countries are allowed to enter the country but required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Of the 16 new cases of infections with the U.K. COVID-19 variant, “three have already recovered [while] 13 are active cases,” the department said, adding that of the 13, three were asymptomatic while the rest were showing mild symptoms.

The first case of the new variant was detected last week in an infected Filipino man who had arrived in the country from the Middle East the week before that. He had returned to Manila on Jan. 7 from the United Arab Emirates.

Philippines has the second highest number of coronavirus cases in East Asia after neighbor Indonesia, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

On Friday, the Philippines reported 2,178 new infections, taking the cumulative caseload to 509,887. With 20 new deaths, the total virus-related death toll rose to 10,136, the department said.

Philippine drug regulators last week cleared Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, the first such approval in the country.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, developed by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, is 95 percent effective against the coronavirus disease, the head of the Philippine Food and Drug Administration had said, citing interim data from Phase 3 trials.

“After a thorough review of the currently available data by medical and regulatory experts, the FDA is granting Emergency Use Authorization to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine,” Rolando Enrique Domingo, the agency’s director general, announced in a statement.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration has received emergency-use authorization applications for coronavirus vaccines developed by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.



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