MANILA, Philippines — The passenger who tested positive for the new coronavirus variant in Hong Kong had presented a negative result before boarding a flight from Manila late last year, flag carrier Philippine Airlines said Wednesday.
Hong Kong health officials reported Tuesday that one of the new cases of the variant that originated in the United Kingdom there was a 30-year-old female Hong Kong resident who returned from Manila.
The patient, tagged as 9003, arrived in Hong Kong via PR 300 on December 22.
PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the passenger, whose identity could not be disclosed, submitted a negative coronavirus test result before taking the Manila to Hong Kong flight last December 22.
The presentation of a negative COVID-19 test by arriving passengers is required to enter Hong Kong.
The presence of the new COVID-19 variant from a passenger in Manila raised speculations that the new variant, believed to be more transmissible, may have already reached the Philippines.
But the Department of Health and the Philippine Genome Center, in a joint statement Wednesday, said the UK variant has not yet been detected in the country based on the analysis of 305 positive samples taken in November and December.
It is still unclear where the woman contracted the virus. The nationality of the patient is also unknown.
The DOH said it is already coordinating with health authorities in Hong Kong to secure official notification and other relevant information about the said resident.
In a briefing Wednesday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the agency was able to obtain the list of 40 passengers onboard the PAL flight.
“[In] the line list of passengers, we were able to zero in on two individuals with a profile of 30 year old female,” Vergeire said, adding that the contact numbers of the two female passengers could not be reached.
The health official also said the passengers of PR 300 are the focus of contact tracing efforts.
Professor Guido David, a member of the OCTA Research, raised the possibility that the Hong Kong resident may have contracted it there upon arrival.
“Maybe it was local transmission. Maybe she got it at the Hong Kong airport. We’ll know further details,” David told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
Experts stressed that more details about the passenger are needed to determine where she contracted the virus.
“We don’t even know if the one that was detected in Hong Kong really came from the Philippines or dun lang siya nahawa. We need more details,” Dr. Edsel Salvana, an infectious disease specialist, said.