Entry of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant Omicron is not completely preventable and that the efforts being conducted are to buy time to prepare in case of its detection in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday, Dec. 6.
During a media briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said border controls, biosurveillance, and community response are being done to buy the country enough time to prepare for the new COVID-19 variant.
“Hindi natin sinasabi na it will not enter the country. Ang pinaguusapan natin ngayon when it will enter the country (We’re not saying that it will not reach the country. It’s a matter of when it will enter the country),” Vergeire said.
She mentioned that when DOH was preparing for the Delta variant, they had already thought that it would enter the country no matter what happened since borders are very “porous”. Through various COVID-19 efforts, Vergeire said that the government managed to delay the variant’s arrival by a month, giving the country time to devise plans.
Meanwhile, as to updates on the back tracing of the arrivals from South Africa from Nov. 15 to 19, Vergeire said that of the 253, 80 had been verified and located, while 77 are returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) with three being foreign nationals from Region VI.
On the other hand, eight have been verified but have not been located yet. Of the four retested all were negative including the three foreign nationals and one ROF from Region VI, who were tested on Dec. 1. Vergeire added that 71 are in facility quarantine including the three verified foreign nationals while four ROFs are in home quarantine and five were already discharged after completing the 14-day quarantine.
As of Dec. 5, Vergeire shared that there have been 532 submissions of genome sequences to Global Initiative on Sharing of All Influenza Data (GISAID) which were positive in the Omicron variant. Of these, 226 or 42 percent were from South Africa. The submissions, according to Vergeire, were from 42 countries or jurisdictions that have reported cases of Omicron either at their ports of entry or locally. New additions to countries where local case transmission of the new variant is suspected include Australia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.