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DOH confirms first 3 local cases of Omicron variant

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There's now a high possibility of local transmission in the Philippines of the Omicron variant of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, the first three local cases along with seven more imported cases.

These new cases brought to 14 the total Omicron (B.1.1.529) cases in the country: 11 international travelers and three local cases. The 10 new cases were among the 48 samples sequenced by the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) Friday, the DOH announced.

Of the three local cases, two are from the Bicol Region and one is from the National Capital Region (NCR). All have been tagged as recovered.

  • Male, 42, from NCR, tested positive on Dec. 3 and was tagged as recovered on Dec. 17;

  • Female, 27, from Bicol, tested positive on Dec. 14; and

  • Female, 46, from Bicol, tested positive on Dec. 15.

Among the seven new cases is the husband of Case No. 4, a Malaysian national and five other returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs):

  • Three arrived from the United States via Philippine Airlines flight numbers PR 127 on Dec. 16 and PR 103 on Dec. 15.

  • Two arrived from the United Kingdom via the connecting flights of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 910 on Dec. 15 and Emirates Airlines flight EK 332 on Dec. 9.

  • One case arrived from the United Arab Emirates through Philippine Airlines flight 659 on Dec. 19; and

  • One case arrived from Ghana through the connecting flight of Qatar Airways flight number QR 930 on Dec. 14.

All other details were still being verified. The DOH also said it was verifying the test results and health status of all co-passengers to determine if there are other confirmed cases or passengers who became symptomatic after arrival. Travelers who arrived in the Philippines on these flights may call the DOH COVID-19 Hotlines at (02) 8942 6843 or 1555, or their respective local government units (LGUs) to report their status.

Dr. Beverly Lorraine C. Ho, director of the DOH Health Promotion Bureau, confirmed that there's a high possibility of local transmission.

"Local transmission is when we can categorically establish that there is NO linkage to any of the previous cases, in this case, the imported cases. Epidemiological investigation is still continuing," Ho said.

New COVID-19 cases have been doubling in the recent three days: 421 on Dec. 28, 889 on Dec. 29, 1,623 on Dec. 30 and 2,961 on Dec. 31. Of the new cases on Dec. 31, 99% or 2,927 were from the NCR.

The three local cases are under investigation and the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Units (RESUs) are tracing all their possible close contacts.

As this developed, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases placed the NCR under Alert Level 3 from Jan. 3 to 15, 2022.

With the detection of local cases of Omicron, the DOH sternly warned the public against disregarding our minimum public health standards (MPHS) and testing and isolation or quarantine protocols.

“This holiday season, we continue to remind LGUs to conduct active case finding to identify cases and clusters. They may also implement granular lockdowns as needed. LGUs should also prepare isolation facilities for individuals who cannot do home quarantine or isolation. Lastly, increase vaccination coverage among the high-risk groups such as senior citizens and those with underlying conditions to reduce hospitalization and deaths due to COVID-19,” Health Secretary and IATF Chairman Francisco T. Duque III said.

“We also have to keep our healthcare utilization at a manageable level. We can do this by working together to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. All eligible individuals should get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible. We can also use surgical masks, double masking, or complementing cloth masks with a face shield. We urge those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 to isolate, get tested, and finish the prescribed duration. Lastly, if we can, let us do home isolation supported by regular teleconsultation,” Duque added. (MTVI/Ventures Cebu)

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