Filipino domestic helper in Caribbean Coast and Indian engineer infected with the same South African strain

Caribbean Coast

1st May 2021 – (Hong Kong) The variant virus has entered the local community Hong Kong. A Filipino domestic helper (Case No. 11773) in Caribbean Coast, Tung Chung has become the first local case of double mutant virus in Hong Kong. The source of her infection is still unknown.

The genome sequencing results of the University of Hong Kong and the Polytechnic University were released today. It was found that the Filipino domestic helper was infected with the South African variant virus, just like the Indian engineer in the Parkes Building in Jordan (Case No. 11643). The virus genomes of the two are 100% identical. In other words, the virus spread from Jordan to Tung Chung within 14 days. Yuen Kwok-yung, chair professor of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said that this finding reflects that this mutant virus has spread in the community, and the transmission rate of the South African mutant virus is higher.

Yuen said that according to the genome sequencing analysis of the University of Hong Kong, the foreign domestic helper in Tung Chung, like the Indian engineer who arrived in Hong Kong from Dubai and lived in the Parkes Building in Jordan, carry the same South African variant virus (B.1.351).

However, the virus strain of the three cases are not identical to the N501Y virus strain identified in another mutant case involving another Filipino domestic helper who spent 21 days in quarantine at Ramada Hong Kong Harbour View in Sai Ying Pun.

Dr Gilman Siu, Department of Health Technology and Informatics of the Polytechnic University said that the team’s genome sequencing results also found that the Filipino domestic helper and the 10-month-old baby girl cared by the Filipino domestic helper were infected with the same South African variant virus, which is similar to the virus of the Indian engineer.

Yuen believes that these two cases reflect loopholes in border control or quarantine arrangements, and false negatives in sampling and testing. The government should introduce new measures to review the services of outsourced private laboratories and conduct random checks on negative reports to minimise false positives and false negatives. He also pointed out that the government should trace back those who have recently completed quarantine and conduct antibody tests for them, especially those who have been quarantined at Ramada Group hotels. Regarding the government’s requirement that all foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong need to be tested, he emphasised that large-scale testing cannot replace fast, multi-level tracking work, so as to ensure that the transmission chain can be found.