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No traveler from South Africa who arrived in November tested positive for Omicron –DOH

No one of the over 200 travelers from South Africa, who arrived in the country last month, tested positive for the Omicron variant, the Department of Health (DOH) said Saturday.

“As of December 9, meron po tayong lumabas na resulta ng whole genome sequencing. Unang una, gusto natin ipaalam sa ating mga kababayan there was no sample positive for the Omicron variant,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during the Laging Handa briefing.

(As of December 9, we now have the results of the whole genome sequencing. First of all, I would like to disclose that there was no sample positive for the Omicron variant.)

The DOH is monitoring 253 travelers from South Africa who arrived in the country from November 15 to 29, before the Philippines enforced temporary travel restrictions on South Africa and several other countries over the Omicron variant.

Eight of the 253 travelers were initially unaccounted for. The government has traced six of them, leaving only two unaccounted for.

While none of the travelers from South Africa tested positive for the Omicron variant, Vergeire said one traveler was detected carrying B.1.1.203 COVID-19 variant.

“Hindi siya Omicron. Hindi rin siya isa mga variant na binabantayan natin sa bansa at hindi variant of concern o variant of interest,” she said.

(It’s not Omicron. It’s also not among the variants we are on the lookout for and it's not a variant of concern or variant of interest.)

In a separate statement, the DOH said that the traveler detected with the B.1.1.203 COVID-19 variant arrived in the Philippines on November 16 and the test result came in on November 21.

“We reiterate that this is not a variant of concern, nor a variant of interest,” the Health Department said.

Meanwhile, the two unaccounted for travelers, who are all returning overseas Filipinos, are still being traced by their respective local government units in the addresses they provided.

The DOH earlier said the eight provided incorrect or incomplete information upon their arrival, making it difficult for authorities to trace them.

The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa and has since been designated 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.

“We urge the public to continuously adhere to the minimum public health standards to ensure prevention against transmission of COVID-19,” the DOH said.

“Also, get vaccinated to get additional protection against a severe or critical case of COVID-19,” it added. — DVM, GMA News