DOH says PH Genome Center capable of detecting Omicron variant

Published November 29, 2021, 6:27 PM

by Dhel Nazario

The Department of Health (DOH) assured on Monday, Nov. 29 that the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) is capable of detecting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Omicron variant.

(Photo from the Philippine Genome Center website / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a media briefing, Dr. Althea de Guzman, medical specialist at the DOH Epidemiology Bureau said that they urge Local Government Units (LGUs) and Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Units (RESUs) to report any spike in COVID-19 cases in their respective areas and to ensure that samples for sequencing especially those who come from clusters will be submitted immediately.

So far, De Guzman shared that based on the recent sequencing that the PGC has done, Omicron is still not present in the country.

“Sa ating mga laboratories naman na nagtetest ng Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) ay ang agarang pagpapadala ng mga positive samples na ROF para makita natin at masequence lahat (For our laboratories who are testing ROFs, we ask them to send early positive samples of ROFs so that we can check them and sequence them all),” she added.

De Guzman ensured that when it comes to ROFs, they will not miss out anything especially now that only a few of them are testing positive for COVID-19. They have also instructed laboratories to provide all samples eligible for sequencing to verify whether or not Omicron is present.

Aside from sequencing, LGUs said that they should be detected at the local level and that it will start through good surveillance systems conducting active case finding. In case there are positive cases in an area, De Guzman explained that they will find out if it’s part of a cluster or know if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area.

“Ito yun dapat napri-prioritize, napapadala nila agad sa UP-PGC para yun ay masequence natin (These [cases] are the ones that should be prioritized and sent to the UP-PGC to be sequenced),” she added.

According to the data provided by the DOH, Omicron’s first known confirmed case was detected on a specimen collected on Nov. 9 in South Africa and was then detected in Botswana and Hong Kong. It has since comprised 75 to 100 percent of sequenced cases in the Gauteng Region of South Africa.