By J. Jala | 04:27 PM December 15, 2021
The Philippines on Wednesday confirmed two omicron Covid-19 cases from international travelers, the Department of Health said.
“The Department of Health, the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the University of the Philippines – National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) report that two imported cases of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of concern were detected from the 48 samples sequenced yesterday, Dec. 14, 2021,” the DOH said in a statement on Wednesday, Dec. 15.
“The two Omicron variant cases are incoming travelers and are currently isolated in a facility managed by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ),” it added.
One is a 48-year-old male returning Filipino who arrived from Japan on Dec. 1 via Philippine Airlines flight PR 0427, and who tested positive and was admitted in a quarantine facility on Dec. 7. He is currently asymptomatic but had symptoms of colds and cough upon arrival, the DOH said.
The other patient is a 37-year-old male Nigerian national who arrived from his home country on Nov. 30 via Oman Air flight WY 843. He tested positive on Dec. 7 and was also admitted in an isolation facility on the same date. He is asymptomatic, according to the health agency.
Both are currently isolated in a facility managed by the Bureau of Quarantine, the DOH said.
One of the cases is fully vaccinated while the other has not been inoculated, Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said without further details.
The agency said it was verifying the test results and health status of all passengers of said flights to determine if there were other confirmed cases or passengers who became symptomatic after arrival. The agency is still getting the flights’ list of passengers and crew, Vergeire said.
Travelers who arrived through these flights are urged to call the DOH hotlines (02) 8942 6843 and 1555, or their respective local governments to report their status.
The omicron variant has 50 mutations, including 30 in the spike protein region, which might cause “increased transmissibility and immune evasion,” the DOH earlier said.
It “may be over 10 times more transmissible” than the original variant or 4.2 times more transmissible than the delta variant, which is dominant in the country, said Dr. Alethea de Guzman, director of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau.
The Philippines as of Wednesday has 7,919 delta variant cases, following the detection of 33 more infections, according to the DOH. Of the new delta variant cases, 14 were returning Filipinos while 19 were local cases.