© Philippines Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — A total of 447 first to third-generation close contacts have been identified so far in the monitoring of the Covid-19 variant in Bontoc, Mountain Province and in La Trinidad, Benguet, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

Based on DOH data as of January 31, a total of 410 close contacts have been identified in the cluster of Covid-19 cases in Bontoc being monitored for possible detection of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

The variant, known as B117, was first reported in the United Kingdom.

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Bontoc cases

Of the 410 close contacts, 83 have tested positive, including the 12 patients in Bontoc who were earlier confirmed to have tested positive for the variant and two others who have tested negative for the variant.

Of those who have tested positive for Covid-19, specimens from eight other contacts have been submitted for genome sequencing, according to DOH data.

Results have yet to be released.

Genome sequencing is necessary to identify if the Covid-19 positive patients are infected with the variant.

Of the 410 contacts, 197 have tested negative for Covid-19, and 42 others are awaiting test results. Another 88 are still up for specimen collection.

The DOH earlier said it identified “linkages of cases” in Bontoc to a Covid-19 positive male traveler from the UK, but the traveler himself had tested negative for the new variant.

“Thus, the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit and local government unit are currently backward tracing exposures and travel histories of cases to identify other possible source/s of infection,” the DOH earlier said in a statement.

La Trinidad cases

Meanwhile, for the UK variant case in La Trinidad, a total of 37 close contacts have been identified, including six who have tested positive for Covid-19, 14 who tested negative, 14 awaiting test results, and three who are still up for specimen collection.

Specimens from two of the six Covid-19 positive close contacts have been submitted for genome sequencing.

Genome sequencing

The DOH earlier said a sample can only be subjected for genome sequencing if its cycle threshold (CT) value is less than 30, which means it has a high viral load.

A higher viral load is associated with the new variant, which implies a higher concentration of virus particles in the bodies of patients.

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