The Department of Health (DOH), UP-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the UP-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) confirmed Friday the detection of the B.1.1.7 variant in 16 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the total in the country to 17.

The detection came following strengthened biosurveillance activities amid the detection of the first B.1.1.7 variant in the country on January 13, the DOH said in a press statement.

Twelve of the 16 additional cases are from Bontoc, Mountain Province. Of this figure, seven are male and five are female. Three are aged below 18 and another three are above 60.

Contact tracing was immediately initiated to contain the spread of the infection. An investigation is also underway to identify these cases’ exposure and travel histories.



Meanwhile, two other patients with the B.1.1.7 variant are returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) who arrived on December 29, 2020, from Lebanon, a country included in the travel restrictions due to the detection of the B.1.1.7 variant in said country. The cases were aboard Philippine Airlines flight PR 8661.

The DOH said the first case is a 64-year old female whose indicated local address is Jaro, Iloilo City. The patient was isolated in San Juan, Metro Manila, and discharged on January 9. The other is a 47-year-old Filipina whose reported local address is Binangonan, Rizal, and was quarantined in New Clark City and discharged from isolation on January 13.

The last two B.1.1.7 variant cases are local cases detected in La Trinidad, Benguet, and in Calamba City, Laguna; both have no known contact to any confirmed case or travel history from outside the country. One is currently admitted in a Benguet Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility, while the 23-year-old male in Laguna has been discharged after receiving a negative result on January 16.

Of the additional 16 cases with B.1.1.7 variant detected, 3 have already recovered, 13 are active cases—3 of which are asymptomatic and 10 are exhibiting mild symptoms.

Biosurveillance is in place, and we will continue to expand our capacities to detect all COVID variants of public health importance. The DOH calls on local government units to ensure strict monitoring and compliance to quarantine protocols in their respective localities.

The DOH also reiterates that non-adherence and incorrect adherence to minimum public health standards (MPHS) are the drivers of transmission and mutation and therefore strongly urges the public to strictly and properly follow the MPHS in all settings.