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Close contacts of OFW in Hong Kong with UK COVID-19 variant traced, tested

The Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday, January 8, that close contacts of the 30-year-old Filipina domestic worker in Hong Kong – who got infected with the UK variant of COVID-19 – have been traced and tested for the virus.

In a virtual press briefing on Friday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the close contacts of the Filipina domestic worker from Solana, Cagayan have been swabbed and their samples sent to the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) to check the presence of the UK variant of the novel coronavirus.

"In Solana, Cagayan kung saan siya nanggaling, atin na pong na-contact o na-coordinate na, napuntahan na po itong close contacts at nakuhanan na po ng swab for RT-PCR at ito pong specimen din for genome sequencing ay nagawa na," Vergeire said.

(In Solana, Cagayan where she came from, we already contacted her close contacts and their swabs were taken for RT-PCR and their specimen for genome sequencing.)

Vergeire also said that direct contacts of the Filipina in Metro Manila have also been tested for the virus.

Vergeire did not disclose the results of the close contacts tested for COVID-19. Meanwhile, results of the genome sequencing will be out next week.

Genomic sequencing is the process of analyzing the virus sample taken from a diagnosed patient and comparing it with other cases to see whether those who tested positive for COVID-19 have the new variant.

Despite the Filipino case in Hong Kong, the DOH maintained that the UK variant of COVID-19 was not yet in Philippine shores, as shown by the results of the PGC's genome sequencing released on Wednesday. (READ: DOH, Genome Center: No new COVID-19 variant yet in PH)

It remains unknown how and where the said Filipina contracted the UK variant of COVID-19. (READ: DOH still can't tell where, how Hong Kong passenger got UK COVID-19 variant)

The UK COVID-19 variant known as B117 – believed to be more contagious than the original variant – was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020.

The DOH said that it was also monitoring monitoring the new variants of the novel coronavirus found in Malaysia and South Africa.

The detection of the new variants has pushed countries, including the Philippines, to tighten borders anew as a precautionary measure. (READ: LIST: Countries facing Philippine travel ban due to new COVID-19 variant– Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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