Hong Kong detects new coronavirus variant in passenger from PH


MANILA, Philippines — Hong Kong has detected the presence of the new COVID-19 variant, believed to be more infectious, in a passenger who returned from the Philippines on Dec. 22.

Hong Kong health officials said Tuesday that four new cases of the new variant were detected in their country, one case of which is a 30-year-old female Hong Kong resident, who returned from Manila on Dec. 22.

Chuang Shuk-Kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Hong Kong health department, said the resident, who is tagged as Case 9003, arrived in Hong Kong via Flight PR 300.

“Case 9003 took the PR 300 and arrived in Hong Kong on the 22nd of December from the Philippines,” she said in a virtual press briefing.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Philippine government had started coordinating with the International Health Regulations (IHR) focal point of Hong Kong to request further details.

The Department of Health (DOH) is also retrieving the flight manifest for the identified flight.

“We will be informing you as soon as we get the complete information,” Vergeire told reporters in a Viber message.

The new COVID-19 variant known as B.1.17, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, has started to spread across the globe, with several countries in Southeast Asia reporting that it has reached their shores.

This prompted the Philippine government to ban travelers coming from the UK from entering the country.

Later on, the government expanded the travel restrictions to countries with reported cases of the new variant.

On Jan. 2, the DOH said there was no confirmed case yet of the new COVID-19 variant.

Results of the genome sequencing on the specimen samples of travelers who arrived in the country may be released this week, Vergeire earlier said.

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