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Hong Kong detects new COVID-19 variant in passenger from Manila

Hong Kong said it detected the presence of the UK variant of COVID-19 in a passenger who returned from Manila on December 22.

In a virtual press briefing on Tuesday, January 5, Hong Kong health officials said they have detected 4 cases of the new variant in their country. Among the cases is a 30-year-old female Hong Kong resident, who returned from Manila on December 22 via PR 300. She has been tagged case 9003.

Two other cases were from London and the 4th case was from France.

"[Case] 9003 took PR 300 and arrived in Hong Kong on the 22nd of December from [the] Philippines," said Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of Hong Kong's health department.

In a message to reporters past midnight Wednesday, January 6, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have "initiated coordination" with the International Health Regulations focal point of Hong Kong for further details.

According to Vergeire, they are also retrieving the flight manifest of flight PR 300.

The new COVID-19 variant known as B117 – believed to be more contagious than the original strain of the novel coronavirus – was first detected in the United Kingdom in September.

On Saturday, January 2, the DOH said that the new COVID-19 variant has not reached the Philippine shores yet. 

In a virtual press briefing on Monday, January 4, Vergeire said that they were expecting this week the results of the genome sequencing of the specimen samples of travelers who arrived in the country.

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 carry the new 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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