A returning Hong Kong resident from the Philippines was found to have been infected with a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 upon arrival in the Chinese special administrative region, authorities there said.
The 30-year-old female arrived in Hong Kong via Philippine Airlines Flight PR 300 on Dec. 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.
Philippine Airlines on Wednesday said it already turned over the needed flight information to the local Bureau of Quarantine for contact tracing. The flight carried some 40 passengers, Department of Health spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
The infected passenger, according to the airline, presented a negative COVID-19 test prior to the flight.
"The presentation of a negative covid test by arriving passengers is a requirement of the HK government," the flag carrier said in a statement.
Philippine health authorities have also "initiated coordination" with the International Health Regulations focal point of Hong Kong for further details but have yet to receive any response as of Wednesday noon according to Vergeire.
"We have already initiated coordination with the IHR Focal Point of HK 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 however 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 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 virus variant. The entry ban will last until Jan. 15.
Travelers from countries that will report the presence of the new variant will subsequently be banned, authorities said.