A returning Hong Kong resident from the Philippines was found to have been infected with a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19upon arrival in the Chinese special administrative region, authorities there said.
The 30-year-old arrived in Hong Kong via Philippine Airlines Flight PR 300 on December 22, health officials said.
The announcement came even as the Philippines has yet to confirm any case of the new virus strain that is rapidly spreading in the United Kingdom.
Department of Health spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said early Wednesday that Philippine health authorities have "initiated coordination" with the International Health Regulations (IHR) focal point of Hong Kong for further details.
"We have already initiated coordination with the IHR Focal Point of Hong Kong to request further details. Also retrieving the flight manifest for the identified flight," Vergeire told reporters.
Following Hong Kong's announcement, the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) reported that the new virus variant has not been detected yet in the Philippines. It said the new virus variant was "not detected in any of the 305 positive samples submitted to them from nine (9) institutions."
The 305 samples analyzed by PGC were composed of positive samples from November-December 2020 hospital admissions and from inbound travelers who tested positive upon arrival at the airport, it said.
The new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in the UK and is believed to be more contagious. The Philippines has banned the entry of travelers from 21 nations with confirmed cases of the new strain. The entry ban will last until January 15, 2020.
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Travelers from countries that will report the presence of the new variant will subsequently be banned, authorities said.