As the government continues its effort in easing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in the country, an official of the World Health Organization (WHO) reminded the public to remain cautious amid the new COVID variant Omicron.
WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said it was better to be prepared than to have regrets as there was already growing concern over the Omicron variant.
“It’s important for the country to be prepared and recognize the threat of the Omicron virus… we are conscious that we don’t have a lot of information about the potential possibility of infections or even its capacity to evade the therapeutics that we have,” he during the Laging Handa virtual forum.
Abeyasinghe also cited the risk-based approach adopted by the country, or the alert level system.
“We support the alert levels because we recognized that the COVID-19 is here for the long term and we need to manage the risk of COVID-19 without harming economy and while protecting lives,” he said.
“We continue to urge countries to take a risk-based approach. That risk-based approach should not only target countries that have already confirmed the Omicron variant in travelers and citizens,” he said.
The WHO official also expressed his support for the country’s National Vaccination Days as this will help protect more people against the deadly disease.
Abeyasinghe then urged the government to implement crowd control, as well as to increase the vaccination capacity.
He also reiterated to the public that wearing of facemasks and practicing social distancing was still needed to fight against COVID-19
The government should also support the Philippine Genome Center in expanding its whole genome sequencing capacity to make the country more equipped in detecting Omicron and initiate appropriate control measures and alert levels as soon as possible, Abeyasinghe said.
He added all foreign passengers samples should be sequenced and only those who came from countries with confirmed cases of Omicron.
Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr. Beverly Ho, however, said based on the current protocols, all returning overseas Filipinos are tested using RT-PCR, except for those fully vaccinated from Green List with negative predeparture test.
She added that of those that tested positive, only those who have CT value of