DOH tightens biosurveillance

Marites Villamor-Ilano
·4 min read

AFTER confirming that the more contagious Sars-CoV-2 variant has been detected in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) intensified biosurveillance and urged local government units (LGUs) to strictly ensure compliance to minimum public health standards and quarantine protocols.

The DOH reiterated that the mode of transmission of the virus has not changed and the minimum public health standards remain an effective measure against its transmission. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets.

The minimum public health standards include proper wearing of face masks and face shields, and physical distancing of at least one meter.

An individual who traveled or was exposed to a confirmed case is required to undergo isolation for 14 days, the incubation period of Sars-CoV-2.

The DOH and the Philippine Genome Center confirmed Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 that the B.1.1.7 variant of Sars-CoV-2, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, was found in swab specimens taken from a Filipino male who resides in Quezon City and traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently.

First confirmed case

The patient, who has been referred to a quarantine facility, departed for Dubai on Dec. 27, 2020 for business purposes and returned to the Philippines on Jan. 7, 2021 via Emirates flight EK 332.

In a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte Wednesday night, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said the patient is a 29-year-old real estate agent. He resides with his girlfriend and parents in Kamuning, Quezon City.

Both the patient and his girlfriend, who is also a real estate agent, have not reported for work physically and go out only for essentials.

Duque said both tested negative for the virus upon arrival in Dubai. They had a business meeting with another individual on Dec. 30 and were reported to have gone grocery shopping, and visited malls and tourist sites.

They were swabbed upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on January 7. They then went to a hotel for the required quarantine period.

Duque said the patient’s test results came out positive on January 8. His girlfriend tested negative.

The patient was referred to an isolation facility in Quezon City, where he underwent an X-ray and was diagnosed with pneumonia.

The girlfriend is under strict quarantine and monitoring.

All other passengers on the flight have been advised to contact their Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs).

The DOH said weekly genomic biosurveillance will be conducted among incoming passengers, local coronavirus cases, re-infected patients and in reported clustering of cases.

The B.1.1.7 variant is one of four Sars-CoV-2 variants identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) so far.

It has been reported to be more infectious than the D614G, the dominant form of the virus that is circulating worldwide.


Meanwhile, the Lapu-Lapu City Government vowed to strictly monitor all arriving passengers at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) after the Philippines confirmed its first case of the new Covid-19 UK variant.

With international flights at the MCIA currently suspended due to numerous travel bans issued by the National Government, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan said it will be the City’s task to monitor domestic arrivals.

Grace Mary Carungay, Lapu-Lapu City’s epidemiological and surveillance unit officer, said for Lapu-Lapu City residents arriving at the airport, they will require swab tests even if they are able to show documents from their place of origin clearing them of Covid-19.

They will also be quarantined in their respective barangays and then swabbed again on the fifth day of their stay as part of strict monitoring, Carungay said.

Chan urged other LGUs in Cebu to create their own teams to monitor arriving passengers bound for their respective areas.

“Not all passengers are from Lapu-Lapu, and we will not know if their documents are fake. We will only look at the side of Lapu-Lapu. We cannot interfere in areas outside the city,” Chan said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Previously, a swab test upon arrival was only required from passengers of international flights to safeguard against the Covid-19.

Help desks will be placed outside the arrival terminal of MCIA to ensure that all arriving passengers will be checked thoroughly. / GCM / JKV, SunStar Philippines