DOH contact-tracing 40 co-passengers of HK resident with reportedly new COVID variant

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 06 2021 02:20 PM | Updated as of Jan 06 2021 06:53 PM

DOH contact-tracing 40 co-passengers of HK resident with reportedly new COVID variant 1

MANILA — At least 40 people were the recent focus of the health department's contact-tracing efforts, following reports that a foreigner who had travelled to the Philippines tested positive for the new COVID-19 variant upon arriving in Hong Kong. 

While the Philippine government has yet to confirm the identity of the Hong Kong resident, the Department of Health (DOH) said it was already contact-tracing the other passengers on the flight from Manila.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that Hong Kong officials have yet to give further details on the patient but they were able to get the list of passengers onboard Philippine Airlines flight PR300 through the Philippines’ Bureau of Quarantine.

“[In] the line list of 40 (passengers), we were able to zero in on 2 individuals with a profile of 30 years old female,” she said.

Vergeire said those were the only details they know about the patient, especially since Hong Kong authorities did not mention the nationality during their press conference.

She said the numbers of the two female passengers cannot be reached but they are already trying to contact the families through the addresses they gave to the airline.

“Also aside from these 2 individuals, we also are doing contact tracing na rin sa additional 38 (passengers),” the health official said.

The Philippine Airlines also confirmed that it had shared their information with the Bureau of Quarantine.

“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,” the company said.

Before Christmas, the government imposed travel restrictions on United Kingdom to prevent the spread of the new variant in the Philippines. The travel ban list was expanded to include other countries as more announced detecting the new variant. 

Foreign travelers coming from the following countries are temporarily prohibited from entering the Philippines: United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, and Spain. Meanwhile, returning Filipinos from these countries will have to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine even with a negative test.

To ensure that the variant has not yet entered the Philippines, the government has ordered the gene sequencing of samples of COVID-positive travelers. As of Wednesday morning, none of the 305 samples sequenced had the new and more transmissible virus.

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- With a report from Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News.