As of yesterday, health authorities were monitoring 615 contacts of the Bontoc residents who have tested positive for the new variant of the COVID-19 virus. An overseas Filipino worker who was quarantined upon arrival in the Philippines returned to his hometown in Bontoc after he tested negative for COVID. The OFW, however, subsequently experienced symptoms and later tested positive for the COVID variant.
The Department of Health says eight OFWs so far have returned to Bontoc town in Mountain Province. The variant called B117, first detected in the United Kingdom, is said to be at least 50 percent more infectious, although there is no conclusive evidence that it is more virulent.
Because of the B117 local transmission, the government has amended health protocols. Beginning Feb. 1, all travelers arriving in the country must head straight to 14-day quarantine, with COVID testing to be done on the fifth day from arrival rather than on the first day.
As the country has seen in the case of the original COVID virus, local transmission can quickly turn into community transmission – meaning there is widespread infection, which can no longer be traced to a specific source. From there, B117 transmission can rapidly get out of hand, leading to more deaths, debilitation and lockdowns.
Because of the emergence of the variant, President Duterte reversed the order allowing children aged 10 to 14 to go out of their homes. Compliance with health safety protocols, however, must be intensified with the spread of B117, even in areas under the most lenient modified general community quarantine. Limits on the number of people at gatherings must be strictly observed as travel destinations are reopened. Masks must be worn, and properly, covering the nose. Hand hygiene and physical distancing can spell the difference between health and infection. The local transmission of the new variant leaves no room for complacency.