Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said Thursday that contact tracing is being done for the 64 Filipinos from red list countries that are at quarantine facilities.
Three Filipinos who were earlier isolated after returning from South Africa are fully vaccinated and are not showing any symptoms of COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
The Bureau of Quarantine said the Filipinos quarantined in Negros Oriental had arrived before the country imposed a travel ban on South Africa following the classification of Omicron as a variant of concern.
Meanwhile, Negros Occidental took additional precautions in placing three foreign travelers from South Africa under quarantine even though they were already cleared by the Bureau of Quarantine last week, the DOH said.
"They were immediately isolated once it was reported they were from South Africa. They are fully vaccinated, they do not have signs and symptoms. They were just isolated because they were from South Africa," Vergeire said.
The confirmatory swab test results of the three Filipinos have yet to be released, Vergeire said.
Vergeire also said the Philippines has yet to detect the Omicron variant.
“Just to be clear, no detection yet of Omicron, we are still processing (the) next batch of whole genome sequences," she earlier said on Wednesday.
The Philippine Genome Center can "already do immediate processing of sequencing and immediately issue the results in about 24-30 hours," she said.
The Philippines has so far banned travelers from seven African nations and seven European countries until Dec. 15.
The Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa, has some 50 mutations, including those in the spike protein region which may affect vaccine efficacy and lead to increased transmissibility, Vergeire said.
Two of the travelers arrived in the Philippines on Nov. 24 while the last arrived on Nov. 26, before the government enforced a travel ban on South Africa, which recently detected the Omicron variant.
The variant is being blamed for the spike of cases in South Africa.
Rayfrando Diaz II, Negros Occidental provincial administrator, said the three foreigners did not leave their homes upon arriving in the province. “They went directly to their staff houses and did not mingle with other people,” Diaz said.
The local government said the foreigners were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provided negative RT-PCR test results upon arriving in the country
Health care workers and hospitals are preparing for a possible surge in cases amid the threat of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.
The Private Hospitals Association Philippines (PHAPI) said more nurses and medical staff were being assigned in COVID-19 wards in preparation for a possible spike in cases.
“Maybe in less than two or three weeks, our cases may increase again. We must be careful and take care of our children because if you go to the malls you will see a lot of children,” PHAPI president Dr. Jose Rene De Grano said.
De Grano said there are enough supplies of oxygen and medicines that can be used by COVID-19 patients.
“The supplies of medicine are stable. They are also preparing and disinfecting the COVID-19 areas in the hospitals,” De Grano said.
Medical staff are hoping that the COVID-19 surge last July until September will not happen again.
“We are also worried because we are the first to get infected because as health frontliners we are more exposed,” De Grano said.
The Philippines logged 564 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 2,833,473.
Forty new fatalities were reported, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 48,752.
The DOH also reported 694 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,769,533.
The COVID-19 positivity rate was at 1.7 percent out of 34,918 tests conducted on Nov. 30.
There were 15,188 active cases, of which 715 cases were asymptomatic, 7,126 cases were mild, 3,817 cases were moderate, 2,463 cases were severe, and 1,067 cases were critical. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
The number of active cases was the lowest number since June 5 last year, when 15,151 were recorded. It is also the lowest so far this year.
Nationwide, 27 percent of ICU beds, 25 percent of isolation beds, 14 percent of ward beds, and 16 percent of ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 27 percent of ICU beds, 22 percent of isolation beds, 19 percent of ward beds, and 18 percent of ventilators, were in use.
Also on Thursday, a clinical investigator from the Quirino Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City said the experimental COVID-19 medication molnupiravir could likely be active against the new Omicron variant.
Dr. Joel Santiaguel said on Thursday that based on the third phase of the global study to determine molnupiravir's effects, the drug demonstrated a consistent efficacy against other variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“Based on molnupiravir’s unique mechanism of action and the genomic evidence available on the newly identified variant, Omicron variant, we believe the pill will likely be active against this emerging variant,” Santiaguel said.
Santiaguel, however, noted that specific studies evaluating the pill against the new variant have not yet been conducted.
Molnupiravir is the first oral antiviral drug shown to prevent mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 from progressing into severe disease that needs hospitalization.