MANILA (UPDATED) — The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday revealed that the Hong Kong resident who tested positive for the new COVID-19 variant came from Cagayan Valley.
It was also revealed that she was tested 11 days after arriving from Manila.
Citing reports from the Hong Kong International Health Regulations National Focal Point and the local Centers for Health Development, the DOH said the 30-year-old traveler left Cagayan Valley Region on December 17, 2020.
She arrived in Metro Manila on December 18 and “underwent quarantine as per their workplace protocol.” Her COVID-19 test on December 19 turned out negative.
“The case left for Hong Kong on December 22, 2020 where she underwent quarantine upon arrival. On January 2, 2021, she underwent RT-PCR testing again where the swabs tested positive and detected to also be positive for the UK variant. She remains in isolation and in stable condition,” the DOH said.
It was not revealed if the traveler was a Filipino national.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Wednesday that the government was having a hard time confirming the case first mentioned by Hong Kong media.
With no confirmation as of Wednesday, the government resorted to contact tracing all passengers on the mentioned flight, Philippine Airlines’ PR300.
Vergeire said they had to zero in on two female passengers both aged 30 years old. But because their contact numbers are not working, she said they are trying to reach out to the families using the address given to the airline.
The DOH said it is also contact tracing the other passengers on the flight. There is also contact tracing in Hong Kong.
“There is also ongoing contact tracing by the concerned epidemiology and surveillance units in Cagayan Valley Region and NCR,” it said. “They have been instructed to ensure strict quarantine of identified close contacts and for samples collected from said contacts to be sent for confirmatory testing and, if samples test positive, subsequent whole genome sequencing.”
As of Wednesday, the new variant has not been detected in the Philippines, or at least in the 305 samples gene sequenced by the Philippine Genome Center.
Before Christmas, the government imposed travel restrictions on travelers from the 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.
A public health expert said that if the variant enters the country and is proven to indeed be more infectious, it can result in a 15-fold increase in COVID-19 cases.