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Omicron may already be in PH

December 4, 2021 Lee Ann P. Ducusin 300 views

Although variant has not yet been detected

ALTHOUGH a case of the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has not yet been detected in the Philippines, the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) yesterday floated the possibility that it may have already crossed the country’s borders.

PGC Executive Director Cynthia Saloma said that so far, they have not detected the variant from the 18,000 samples that they sequenced but there is still a possibility that it has entered the country.

“So far wala pa tayong na-detect na Omicron from the 18,000 samples na nai-sequence natin. However, it is possible that it has entered our borders. We are on the lookout for that. The possibility exists pero until such time meron tayong whole genome sequence hindi natin masasabi ‘yan,” she said.

The results of the genome sequencing on the samples taken from three travelers from South Africa, Burkina Faso, and Egypt who tested positive for COVID-19 to find out if they carry the Omicron variant, has yet to come out.

The PGC official also called on local government units to submit samples to its laboratories if they observed spikes in cases in a particular area or clusters.

“And we are always ready to sequence them. Sinasabi namin, ‘it’s not a question of if, it is just a question of when’ kaya kailangan maghanda at mga healthcare facilities ma-improve natin,” she said.

Saloma also reminded the public to practice minimum health standards such as wearing of face masks and observing physical distancing.

The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa and has since been designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.

This prompted the Philippines to update its red list of countries from where travelers are temporarily banned amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those on the red list include South Africa and 13 other countries namely Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique.

Burkina Faso and Egypt are included in the country’s yellow list.

The Department of Health on Friday reported that three travelers who arrived in the Philippines from South Africa, Burkina Faso, and Egypt have tested positive for COVID-19.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said 253 travelers from South Africa, three from Burkina Faso, and 541 from Egypt arrived in the country from Nov. 15 to Nov. 29.

“Each of these countries nagkaroon ng travelers who tested positive for COVID-19. Merong isa out of 253 from South Africa, isa out of 541 from Egypt, at isa out of three from Burkina Faso,” she said, adding that their samples will be sent to the PGC for whole-genome sequencing.

The positive case from South Africa was a 23-year-old overseas Filipino worker who arrived in the country on Nov. 16.

“We are verifying info and isolation status. Sample received at PGC yesterday and will be included in next sequencing run,” Vergeire added.

Vergeire said the DOH was still processing the batch that will be subject to genome sequencing for the week.