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Palace keeps eye on 3 COVID-positive travelers for Omicron

Malacañang is still awaiting 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.

“Ginagawa pa ngayon so far wala pa kaming nakukuhang resulta sa Philippine Genome Center,” acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in an interview on Dobol B TV on Saturday.

(The genome sequencing is still being conducted and so far we have not received results from the Philippine Genome Center.)

“We are monitoring any developments diyan. ‘Pag nagkaroon ng any findings ia-announce namin ‘yan (We will announce if there are any findings),” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said 253 travelers from South Africa, three from Burkina Faso, and 541 from Egypt arrived in the country from November 15 to November 29. 

According to the DOH, each of the said countries had a traveler who tested positive for COVID-19 —one out of the 253 from South Africa, one out of the 541 from Egypt, and one of the three from Burkina Faso.

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 Philippine government 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.

Omicron marker

According to the World Health Organization, the S gene dropout is a marker of the Omicron variant, where the S gene is not detected in a widely used PCR test.

Interviewed at the Laging Handa briefing, health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there are currently 14 laboratories in the country that have machines that use TaqPath test kits, which are screening methodS where a drop of the S-Gene could be detected in an RT-PCR test.

However, the tests will still be subjected to whole genome sequencing for confirmation.

"Our experts recommended for returning overseas Filipino [workers] that it is much more efficient for the government to undergo their tests to whole genome sequencing and do not subject them to TaqPath test kits anymore. It will have the same turnaround time and we will be able to use less resources," Vergeire said.

"But we are considering the use of these (TaqPath test kits) in communities where we will find clusters, especially in areas with laboratories capable of using these," she added. —with a report from Jamil Santos/LBG, GMA News

Tags: omicron, news, nation