Is the 5th COVID-19 case in the Philippines a local transmission?

March 6, 2020 - 7:23 PM
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Filipino Catholics wearing protective masks receive ash on top of their heads as the church observes a
Filipino Catholics wearing protective masks receive ash on top of their heads as the church observes a "contactless" Ash Wednesday amid coronavirus scare, at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines, February 26, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

The terms “local transmission” and “local case” concerning one of the two additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country created confusion on social media.

There are now a total of five individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 after nearly a month of not detecting new cases.

The Department of Health made this announcement on Friday following reports that others in Japan, Australia and Taiwan with a travel history in the Philippines also tested positive for the new pathogen.

The fourth confirmed case is a 48-year-old Filipino male with a travel history in Japan, which has 360 confirmed cases and six deaths, and was tested positive with the illness on March 4.

The fifth one’s circumstances are new from the previous patients.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he is a 62-year-old Filipino male with no travel history in the countries with suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19. He also has existing hypertension and diabetes mellitus.

The man sought consultation at Cardinal Santos Medical Center hospital on March 1. He was eventually admitted and diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

The fifth case is a ‘local case’

Because the fifth individual has no travel history, several Filipinos, including Sen. Risa Hontiveros, expressed worry on it being a proof of local transmission.

“Nagkakahawaan na sa loob ng bansa. A wake-up call for our health officials. Let’s not give the public a false sense of security. Undetected local transmission is rapid & dangerous,” Hontiveros said.

Another Twitter user, meanwhile, wondered if the health agency has an ulterior motive for the timing of reporting these incidents.

“Why do I have a feeling that they waited to announce this a day after the news that an Australian got the virus after her trip to the Philippines?” the user said.

“Like they break this news just now bec other countries would really start becoming suspicious about the real Covid-19 scene here,” the user added.

Duque later decided in a press briefing that this is just a local case because no transmission technically happened.

“It can be considered as a local case,” he said.

Health officials will still conduct contact tracing to establish that no other Filipinos acquired the deadly disease.

“There is no transmission to speak of because we only have one. That’s why we’re doing contract tracing to establish whether or not there are another local cases or clustering of case,” he said.

DOH sought help from those who previously visited the place where the man frequent—the Muslim prayer hall in Barangay Greenhills in San Juan City.

Those who went there and manifested symptoms of the virus may contact the agency through their hotline (02)8-651-7800 local 1149-1150.

Cases with travel history in the Philippines

Taiwan‘s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported on March 5 that a 30-year-old male resident of northern Taiwan contracted the pathogen after he returned home from the Philippines.

He stayed with his friends from February 28 to March 3. By March 5, Taiwan confirmed he was positive for COVID-19.

A 60-year-old woman from Australia also tested positive after her travel from the Philippines. She arrived in New South Wales in Australia on March 3.

The third one was a 44-year-old male Japanese national who stayed in the country from February 21 to 28.

A daily newspaper in Kyoto, Japan reported that he checked in to three different hostels in Metro Manila.