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Philippines detects Omicron variant from 2 international travelers

The Philippines has detected the Omicron coronavirus variant from two international travelers, the Department of Health (DOH) announced on Wednesday.

According to the DOH, one is a 48-year-old male returning overseas Filipino who arrived from Japan on December 1 via Philippine Airlines flight number PR 0427.

The other case, meanwhile, is a 37-year-old male Nigerian national who arrived from Nigeria on November 30 via Oman Air with flight number WY 843.

In a message to reporters, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said one is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while the other is not.

Both are undergoing isolation in a facility managed by the Bureau of Quarantine, the DOH said.

The DOH said the two cases were detrected during the latest run that sequenced 48 samples composed of 21 returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs), one foreign national, and 26 local cases from areas with case clusters.

The sample of the ROF was collected on December 5. He then tested positive COVID-19 on December 7 and was admitted to a facility on the same day.

"He is currently asymptomatic but had symptoms of colds and cough upon arrival," the DOH said.

Meanwhile, the sample from the Nigerian national was collected on December 6 while his positive result was released on December 7. The asymptomatic case was quarantined on the same day.

"The DOH is determining possible close contacts among co-passengers during the flights of these two cases,” the DOH said in a statement.

The DOH said it is also verifying the test results and health status of all passengers of the flights to determine if there are other confirmed cases or if there are any who developed symptoms after arrival.

Travelers from the flights were advised to reach out to the DOH through DOH COVID-19 Hotlines at (02) 8942 6843 or 1555, or their respective local government units to report their status.

"With the detection of the imported cases of Omicron variant, the Department also urges everyone to adhere to the minimum public standards," it said.

"Moreover, this holiday season, the public should avoid holding mass gatherings to curb the transmission of COVID-19. The DOH also urges those unvaccinated to get vaccinated," the DOH added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has previously said that the entrance of the Omicron variant in the country is not a matter of "if" but a matter of "when."

At present, the Omicron variant has been detected in 77 countries across the globe, not including the Philippines, of which 33 have suspected or confirmed local transmissions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Omicron was spreading at an unprecedented rate and was likely already present in most countries around the world.

Since the new, heavily-mutated variant was first detected in southern Africa last month, it has been reported in 77 countries, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Tuesday. 


Meanwhile, of the 48 samples, 33 tested positive for the Delta coronavirus variant while 13 had no lineages assigned.

This brought the total number of Delta cases in the country to 7,919.

Of the 33 Delta cases, 14 are ROFs while 19 were local cases.

The DOH said three were recorded each from Central Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Caraga, and SOCCSKSARGEN, two from Western Visayas, and one each from the Cordillera Administrative Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Eastern Visayas, and Davao Region.

"The Department is closely working with local government units for them to conduct active case finding and ensure that COVID-19 cases are immediately isolated, tested and contact traced, and that eligible samples for sequencing are submitted," it said.  —KBK, GMA News