Philippines' DOH investigating three Covid-19 cases from Africa if they are Omicron variants

MANILA, Dec 4 (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN): Three travellers who arrived in the Philippines from South Africa, Burkina Faso in West Africa, and Egypt have tested positive for Covid-19 but their samples are still undergoing genome sequencing to determine if they have the Omicron variant.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire anounnced that one of those who tested positive for Covid-19 was a 23-year-old overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who arrived from South Africa on Nov 16.

“We are verifying info and isolation status. Sample received at PGC (Philippine Genome Center) yesterday and will be included in next sequencing run,” Vergeire said.

According to data from the Department of Health (DOH), there were 253 travelers from South Africa, three from Burkina Faso and 541 from Egypt who arrived in the country from Nov. 15 to Nov. 29.

“Each of these countries had a traveler who tested positive for Covid-19 ... so all of these as long as their CT (cycle threshold) values are appropriate, we will send them to the Philippine Genome Center for whole genome sequencing,” she said.

Vergeire also said the government is trying to locate 182 more travelers from South Africa who arrived in the country during the same period.

DOH data showed there were 253 travelers from South Africa—249 of them returning Filipinos and four foreign nationals. Seventy-one of them have been located or contacted.

The Bureau of Quarantine, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), as well as local government units (LGUs) were tasked by the country’s pandemic task force to locate passengers from Nov. 15 to Nov. 29, Vergeire said.

She added that all incoming travelers, who will test positive for COVID-19, will be subjected for whole genome sequencing.

In its latest resolution, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) directed the National Task Force Against Covid-19 Task Group on the Management of Returning Overseas Filipinos to ensure that all positive samples of arrivals from Nov. 1 onward that are eligible for sequencing are immediately submitted to the University of the Philippines-PGC.

The IATF also tasked the DILG to call on LGUs to initiate active case finding and to immediately flag clusters or increasing cases, and to immediately submit eligible samples for sequencing.

DOH Epidemiology Director Alethea de Guzman said the Omicron variant has the potential to be highly transmissible and could cause an increase in cases should it enter the country.

Vaccines may also be less effective against it, De Guzman said.

But she also said there was no evidence that the variant could cause more severe illness, increase the risk of death, or affect a particular age group more. Independent group OCTA Research said the National Capital Regio is now at “very low risk” status for Covid-19.

Based on OCTA’s data, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2, the average new Covid-19 cases per day was only at 138 as compared to 416 during the same period last year.

The reproduction number, or the number of new infections generated by each case, was 0.36 this year, down from 0.94 in 2020.

The daily attack rate per 100,000 population fell to 0.97 this year from 2.94 last year. The same goes with positivity rate, which is down to 1.2 percent from 3.9 percent in 2020.

The country’s positivity rate on Friday was at 1.8 percent, slightly higher than the 1.7 percent positivity rate recorded on Thursday. But this is still within the World Health Organization’s positivity target rate of below 5 per cent.

There were 544 new Covid-19 infections reported, bringing the total tally to 2,833,878.

There were also 734 people who recovered from the respiratory illness, bringing the total number of recoveries to 2,769,914. The death toll climbed to 48,987 with 235 new fatalities.

Vergeire said cases in the Philippines are seen to continue to go down until the end of the month. But this projection does not factor in yet the threat of the Omicron variant, she said.

“With the threat of the Omicron variant we are not really certain, I will be very honest, we don’t know. But based on our current state and the projections we have, the number of cases will continue to decrease until Dec. 30,” she added. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN
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Philippines , Investigating , Possible , Omicron , Cases , Africa


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