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WHO official: Philippines fifth COVID-19 patient a case of local transmission


The Philippines' fifth confirmed COVID-19 patient is already a case of local transmission, an official of the World Health Organization has said.

Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the acting WHO representative in the Philippines, said the 62-year-old male who has a relative who's also exhibiting symptoms related to COViD-19 was already a case of local transmission.

Asked if there would already be a case of local transmission if the fifth case's relative tested positive for COVID-19, Abeyasinghe said, "Even the fifth case is a local transmission."

Abeyasinghe, however, said that getting another case in a very close contact did not mean widespread transmission.

"We know that disease is transmitted upon close contacts," Abeyasinghe told reporters after Health Secretary Francisco Duque's press conference on COVID-19 updates at the Department of Health.

Abeyasinghe said it was still unclear whether the fifth case got the virus from a foreigner or a resident of the Philippines.

"It maybe that you’re seeing a local transmission but we need to be clear that it points to the fact that the patient has acquired the disease in the Philippines," Abeyasinghe said.

"We don't know... whether it was from a foreigner or its from a local contact or other contaminated source. We also don't know whether that patient transmitted the infection to other people," he added.

"At this point in time we are not sure whether we are looking at an isolated case or we are looking at a cluster of cases but a cluster of cases does not mean you have a wide spread of local transmission," Abeyasinghe said.

‘We only have one’

Duque on Friday announced that the Philippines has recorded two more cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to five.

He said that one of the two new cases was a 48-year-old Filipino male with a travel history from Japan.

The other was a 62-year-old Filipino male in San Juan City with no travel history abroad but has frequently visited a Muslim prayer hall and has hypertension and diabetes.

Despite the development, Duque said that it is still premature to say that there is already local transmission in the Philippines.

"The absence of travel is a clear indication that this is a local case,"  Duque said, referring to the fifth case.

"There is no transmission to speak of as of yet because we only have one. That's why we're doing contact tracing," he added.

According to Duque, local transmission can only be declared if there is more than one positive case who did not travel abroad.

Specimen collected, awaiting results

The relative of the fifth confirmed case is now being monitored at a referral hospital of the DOH.

Health officials are waiting for the result of the relative's COVID-19 test.

"Based on contact tracing and based from the initial investigations we've done last night and early this morning, we already have one relative, who has been with the patient all throughout, has already experienced symptoms and is now with him in our referral hospital," Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

"The specimen was collected and we are just awaiting results," she added. —Dona Magsino/NB, GMA News