The husband of the 4th reported case of the Omicron variant in the Philippines also tested positive for COVID-19 and will thus be subjected to genome sequencing, a Department of Health (DOH) official said on Tuesday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have traced the close contacts of the 38-year-old female from the United States who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on December 10.
“Her husband turned positive also. He’s currently in the isolation facility,” Vergeire said in a CNN Philippines interview.
She said they have collected samples from the husband and will subject it to genome sequencing that may be out after 24 to 48 hours.
“What we are challenged with right now would be the submissions of laboratories in our epidemiology and surveillance units to submit immediately these samples to the Philippine Genome Center so we could immediately process and release the results at once,” she said.
According to the DOH, the traveler’s positive result for the Omicron variant came out on December 25. She is scheduled to be retested on Tuesday.
She has also completed her two doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
She was released from the isolation facility on Friday and is now undergoing home quarantine and is being monitored.
Vergeire added that the traveler’s family and close contacts at home also undergo isolation.
Meanwhile, the DOH is still trying to determine her close contacts among passengers in the Philippine Airlines flight PR 127.
“We are going to apply the epidemiological definition of close contact in terms of riding a plane—that would be four seats in front, four seats beside, and four seats at the back,” Vergeire said.
In a separate interview with ANC, Vergeire said that all four Omicron cases in the country have “mild” symptoms.
“‘Yung isa nagkaroon ng cough pero after 2 or 3 days, was resolved. Itong latest natin na detection nagkaroon ng scratchy throat and parang colds, then after about 2 or 3 days also has resolved,” she said.
She, however, clarified that this is not conclusive for all as the country is only observing four patients and has not seen the Omicron’s other characteristics yet.
Since the case came from the US, Vergeire clarified that almost all countries have detected the Omicron variant and the Philippines then has to determine if there is local or community transmission in these countries before placing one on the red list.
She however said that the Philippines could not close its borders, but only strengthen its border control by ensuring that all incoming passengers would strictly comply with the quarantine protocols when they arrive in the country.
Currently, only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation, and Bayanihan Flights may be allowed entry, subject to existing testing and quarantine protocols for red list countries.
“The determination or the detection of this variant of concern or the Omicron in the community will just be a matter of time. That’s why we are trying to prepare our response especially in our communities so if ever, if and when, this is already in our community, we’ll be able to respond well and we’ll be able to manage if the cases will be increasing,” she said.
Vergeire also believes that should there be a community transmission of the Omicron variant, the country’s healthcare system is “well prepared and better than before” compared to when there was a surge in Delta variant cases.
A big factor for this is that many Filipinos are now vaccinated against the COVID-19, she said.
According to DOH’s national COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, 56,945,751 individuals have received their first dose while 47,860,944 have completed their doses as of Monday.
Meanwhile, 1,484,246 booster doses were administered to those who have completed the six-month requirement.—AOL, GMA News