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Cases globally: 86,689,030:
MANILA, Philippines — The passenger who was found to have acquired the new COVID-19 variant in Hong Kong presented a negative test result before taking a flight from Manila last December, the Philippine Airlines said Wednesday.
Hong Kong health officials earlier said it has detected the presence of the new and more infectious variant in a passenger who returned from the Philippines last Dec. 22.
The case involves a 30-year-old female Hong Kong resident who flew from Manila via flight PAL flight PR 300.
PAL said passengers going to Hong Kong are required to present a negative test result before being allowed to board the plane.
“The passenger (whose identity we cannot disclose) presented a negative COVID test before taking the Manila to HongKong flight last December 22. The presentation of a negative COVID test by arriving passengers is a requirement of the HK government,” PAL said in a statement.
PAL has already turned over to the Philippine Bureau of Quarantine the necessary information needed for contact tracing of the passengers of the said flight.
“PAL is fully cooperating with health authorities and strictly adheres to vital health & safety protocols to help ensure that air travel is safe even during the pandemic,” it said.
The detection of the new COVID-19 variant from a passenger in Manila stoked fears that the new variant may have already reached the Philippine shores.
However, the Department of Health on Wednesday debunked such speculation after the Philippine Genome Center came out with the result of its genome sequencing study that showed the new variant has yet to reach the country.
The genome center analyzed 305 positive samples from hospital admissions and from inbound travelers last November to December.
The DOH said it is in close coordination with Hong Kong’s International Health Regulations to secure official notification and other pertinent information regarding the Hong Kong resident who tested positive for the variant following travel history from the Philippines.
The new COVID-19 variant known as B.1.17 — first detected in the United Kingdom and said to be more contagious — 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 and several countries with reported cases of the new variant to enter the country.
Although there is no evidence yet suggesting the new variant is more deadly, experts said it’s up to 70% more infectious than the old variant.