The Philippines confirmed its first three local cases of the Omicron variant, prompting the government to place Metro Manila under the stricter Alert Level 3 from Jan. 3 to 15 amid the sharp increase in COVID-19 infections.
Acting Palace spokesman Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) made the decision as they projected cases to further spike in the coming days amid the high possibility of further local transmission of the Omicron strain.
Nograles said the Philippines on Friday logged its first three local cases of Omicron, bringing the total number of infections with the highly-mutated strain to seven.
“The epidemiological investigation on the three local cases indicates there is a high possibility of local transmission ng omicron,” Nograles said.
“There is a high probability of exponential growth with continued decreased adherence to MPHS [minimum public health standards] and the detection of local cases with Omicron variant,” the Department of Health said in a separate statement.
The first four cases were all inbound travelers. No details were given on the first three local transmissions.
Under Alert Level 3, most establishments will be allowed to operate at 30 percent indoor venue capacity only for fully vaccinated individuals and 50 percent outdoor venue capacity, provided that all employees are fully vaccinated.
In a radio interview, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the uptick in cases may already be driven by the Omicron strain.
“This is really alarming. There’s no doubt… Let’s assume that because our cases doubled in a day, this is probably because of Omicron,”
From only 421 cases on Tuesday, new infections more than doubled to 889 on Wednesday. It went up further to 1,623 on Thursday before
hitting 2,961 yesterday.