MANILA- While no Omicron coronavirus variant had been detected in the Philippines yet, the public is advised to remain vigilant and as much as possible go virtual with holiday parties this December.
"[K]ung makita ninyo po iyong cases sa Norway 'di ba mayroon silang malaking party na nagkaroon ng maraming positive cases (If you will see what happened in Norway, several positive cases were detected after a party there) - 30 of whom have been confirmed to be Omicron variant. Kaya siguro po mas maganda po ngayong taon mag-virtual Christmas party po muna tayo kung puwede (This is why I think it's much better to hold virtual Christmas parties instead)," Philippine Genome Center (PGC) executive director Cynthia Saloma said in a Laging Handa briefing on Saturday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also reminded the public that even with no Omicron detected yet, the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is still here.
"[T]he virus is still here, let's continue to practice the safety protocols. Kung magki-Christmas party po baka maaari, virtual parties muna. Let's have that sacrifice first para po sa kapakanan ng ating pamilya at sa kapakanan po ng buong sambayanang Pilipino (If we're going to attend a Christmas party, if possible, do it virtually. Let's have that sacrifice first for our family and the entire Filipino people)," she said.
Vergeire, meanwhile, believes that the variant has not yet entered the Philippines as no clusters or sudden increase in infections has been observed so far.
"[I]f you see in the other countries, nagpuputukan po ang mga kaso nila, biglang tumataas ang numero, dito naman po sa ating bansa ay hindi natin nakikita. (If you see in other countries, the cases are suddenly soaring, but here in the country we don't see that)," she said.
"So, sa tingin ko po sa ngayon, hindi pa nakakapasok ang variant na ito sa ating bansa. At patuloy po na minu-monitor iyan para makapagbigay tayo ng abiso sa ating mga kababayan (So, I think at present, the variant has not yet reached the country. We will continue to monitor this)," she added.
The DOH has so far identified at least 253 individuals who traveled from South Africa to the Philippines, of whom 165 are under verification process, 72 are in quarantine facilities, and eight others are still to be located.
Vergeire said the DOH has also submitted to the PGC the samples of three individuals from Burkina Faso, Egypt, and South Africa who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 to determine if they have the variant.
"Kakasumite lang po ng mga samples nila, I think that was yesterday (Dec. 3). Kaya po kasama po siya doon sa batch na ipuproseso pa lang ng Philippine Genome Center, so we just wait for that (We just submitted their samples, I think it was yesterday, That's among the batch that is being processed by the PGC, so we just wait for that)," she said.
Saloma said at least 242 individuals who returned from different countries in November 2021 also tested positive for Covid-19.
Their samples are now being requested from different laboratories for genome sequencing. (PNA)