Hong Kong: Traveler from Philippines had UK variant of COVID-19

MANILA, Jan 6 (Mabuhay) — A passenger from the Philippines has been identified by Hong Kong authorities as having tested positive for the UK variant of COVID-19.

Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Communicable Disease Branch of Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection, said the traveler arrived in Hong Kong on board Philippine Airlines flight PR300 on December 22.

“[Patient] 9003 took PR300 and arrived in Hong Kong on the 22nd of December from Philippines,” Chuang said in a briefing of the special administrative region’s Information Services Department.

Other patients monitored from December 22 to January 4 by the Hong Kong authorities to have tested positive for the UK variant came from the UK and France.

“The UK variant originated back in September as the people have been flying around. We anticipated that it will appear in other countries,” Chuang said.

“We found them in the France or Philippines  returnees and these are anticipated. Clearly, we are implementing stringent measures… For example, quarantine for 21 days at designated hotels,” she added.

In a statement, Department of Health spokesperson Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said the DOH had already requested more details from the Hong Kong government.

The DOH is also getting a copy of the flight manifest of PR300 on December 22 from PAL.

“We have initiated coordination with the IHR Focal Point of HK to request further details,” Vergeire said.

“Also retrieving the flight manifest for the identified flight. We will be informing as soon as we get complete information,” she added.

It was on December 23, 2020 that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said there are no cases of the new variant in the country.

He had assured the public that authorities are on full alert to prevent the variant from reaching Philippine shores, and that experts are already working to determine the comprehensive profile of the new virus variant.

“We have the capability to detect this. The Philippine Genome Center, the RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine), and the UP-NIH (National Institute of Health) will be having a conference, and I am confident they will be able to give us a detailed characterization of this new variant,” Duque said.

“Pero wala po tayong ganun [rito] at hopefully hindi magkaroon,” Duque added.

Last week, the DOH issued a statement reiterating that there are no cases of the new variant in the country.

“This is to clarify that as of Jan. 2, 2021, the Philippine Genome Center has not detected the UK variant in the country. All RT-PCR positive specimens from the countries with confirmed UK variant are to undergo genome sequencing beginning Monday, Jan. 4, 2021,” the agency said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is aware of a new variant of COVID-19 that has emerged in the United Kingdom, but there is no evidence the strain behaves differently to existing types of the virus.

WHO’s top emergencies expert Mike Ryan said the agency is aware that there are at least 1,000 individuals in England who tested positive for the variant, which has spread to many countries including the United States.

A new variant of the novel coronavirus does not appear to cause more severe illness than other variants but it can spread rapidly, according to a matched study by Public Health England. (MNS)

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