DOH: PH health system ready amid threat of Omicron variant

Published December 5, 2021, 4:11 PM

by Analou de Vera

Hospital nurse (FILE PHOTO)

The Department of Health (DOH) said that the country’s health system remains prepared in the event that COVID-19 cases rise anew amid the threat of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Handa tayo… Alam natin paano [ang] gagawin kung magkakaroon man ng high transmissible Omicron variant (We are ready… We know what to do if the highly transmissible Omicron variant is already detected),” said DOH Undersecretary and Treatment Czar Leopoldo Vega in an interview over radio DZBB on Sunday, Dec. 5.

On Saturday, health authorities said that the presence of the Omicron variant remains undetected in the Philippines.

Vega said that experts are still studying the characteristics of this new coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa.

“Hindi pa alam ang behavior nito despite of the mutations. Pero ganun man, naghahanda tayo may variant of concern man o wala (Its behavior is not yet known despite the mutations. But even so, we are continuously preparing with or without a variant of concern),” he said.

“Talagang alam natin kung paano na ngayon harapin ang COVID-19 lalong lalo na sa healthcare utilization natin o sa mga healthcare facilities (We now know how to deal with COVID-19, particularly in terms of our healthcare utilization or in healthcare facilities),” he added.

Vega said that the overall healthcare utilization in the country remained in the “low-risk” category.

“Since start ng mga bandang last week of November hanggang ngayon, bumaba pa talaga yung healthcare utilization natin at sa buong bansa, nasa low risk na po tayo (Since last week of November until now, our healthcare utilization has really went down and nationwide, we are at low risk),” he said.

Vaccine coverage

The Health official also said it is better to increase the country’s COVID-19 immunity target from 70 percent to 100 percent if possible.

“Yung dating 70 percent yun yung sa original strain ng virus natin yung SARS-CoV-2. Ngayon nagkakaroon ng maraming strain, kailangan taasan ang herd immunity….. In fact, target natin 90 percent or kung puwede 100 percent of the population must be vaccinated (The previous target of 70 percent was for the original strain of the virus. Now that there are many strains, we need to increase herd immunity ….. In fact, we are targeting 90 percent or if possible 100 percent of the population must be vaccinated),” he said.

Vega emphasized the importance of vaccination amid the fight against the pandemic.

“Alam natin na ito ang makakabigay ng community protection. Kung mas mataas o maraming mabakunahan sa isang komunidad, mas better po yung proteksyon talaga sa COVID, sa variant of concern na Omicron (We know that this will provide community protection. If more people are vaccinated in a community, the protection is really better against COVID or the Omicron variant of concern),” he said.

No symptoms so far

In a related development, the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) said that most travelers who entered the Philippines from countries with cases of Omicron have yet to experience symptoms related to COVID-19.

These travelers are currently undergoing quarantine, said BOQ Deputy Director Roberto Salvador Jr. in an interview with radio DZBB.

“Lahat naman po wala namang nagpapakita ng sintomas. Nakikipag-coordinate tayo sa central office natin sa Department of Health (DOH) at Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) para masigurado na mabantayan itong mga tao (None of them shows symptoms. We are coordinating with our central office with the Department of Health and the Department of Interior and Local Government to ensure that these people are being monitored),” said Salvador.

On Dec. 3, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that a total of 253 travelers from South Africa, three individuals from Burkina Faso, and 541 travelers from Egypt arrived in the Philippines between Nov. 15 to 29. Three of these travelers tested positive for COVID-19.

All travelers who will test positive for COVID-19 will be subjected to whole genome sequencing to determine if they carry the Omicron variant.