8 EK332 CO-PASSENGERS, 5 CLOSE CONTACTS OF THE UK VARIANT INDEX CASE TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

Press Release | 20 January 2021

The Department of Health (DOH) today confirmed that eight (8) co-passengers aboard Emirates Dubai-Manila Flight EK332 tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival here in the country. Moreover, the DOH confirmed that five (5) close contacts of the first confirmed UK variant case in the country also tested positive for the disease.

The 8 co-passengers are all Filipino citizens who were tested via RT-PCR and quarantined upon arrival. Upon the release of positive RT-PCR results, the said passengers were immediately transferred to isolation facilities and their samples were secured from confirming laboratories for whole genome sequencing to determine the presence of the UK variant. However, preliminary analysis showed that samples from all positive cases yielded a Cycle Threshold value greater than 30, which indicates low viral load and entails the need for re-swabbing to secure samples for sequencing. As of press time, all 8 passengers are scheduled to be swabbed before Thursday, 21 January 2020.

All 8 co-passengers are in stable condition and will remain under strict monitoring while completing isolation and while waiting for results of re-swabbing. Contact tracing also showed that the 8 cases had no close contact when they arrived, and infection and prevention control practices were strictly observed by personnel who attended to the said cases.

Meanwhile, the 5 close contacts of the patient who recently tested positive are:
● his partner, who was aboard flight EK332 but tested negative upon arrival;
● 2 other co-passengers who also initially tested negative;
● another household member; and
● a healthcare worker from Quezon City who attended to the index case.

Samples from all 5 close contacts who tested positive have been sent to the UP Philippine Genome Center (PGC) for sequencing, and the DOH is now awaiting the results to determine if they are also infected with the UK variant. All close contacts are currently isolated and under strict monitoring.

The DOH extends its gratitude to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Regional and Local Epidemiology and Surveillance Units, the Quezon City Local Government Unit, and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong for their efforts in ensuring immediate and comprehensive contact tracing and response to mitigate further spread of the disease. The Health Department further reiterates that regardless of the variant, strict observance of the Minimum Public Health Standards remains to be the most effective strategy in preventing COVID-19 transmission and in reducing the chances of viral mutation.

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