The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is now in the country. In a statement, the Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that the Philippines records its first two cases of the new COVID variant that has been causing a lot of ruckus around the world.
The first two cases are of a Returning Overseas Filipino (ROF) that traveled from Japan on December 1, and a Nigerian national who came from his home country on November 30. Both travelers are currently being isolated by the Bureau of Quarantine.
“At present, active case finding and contact tracing are being conducted to determine the health condition of co-passengers of the said confirmed cases,” said Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles.
“We assure our people that we will closely monitor developments of the two cases in light of existing protocols, as we continue to remind the public not to let their guard down, to religiously observe minimum public health standards and call upon all those unvaccinated to get their jabs as soon as possible.”
As of December 14, it has been reported that the Omicron variant is present in 77 countries, not counting the new cases found in the Philippines. First detected in South Africa, the Omicron variant has been dubbed as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its number of mutations and early evidence of increased reinfection.
As a precaution, local authorities have warned the Filipino public of the possibility of the highly transmissible variant entering the country beforehand. That is why despite the low number of new cases reportedly daily, the country will remain under Alert Level Number Two.
To add to this, the DOH also urges everyone to adhere to the minimum public standards and properly wear face masks, frequently wash hands with soap and water or alcohol, observe physical distancing, ensure proper ventilation, and avoid crowded areas. Filipinos are also encouraged to get vaccinated whenever possible.
While it was inevitable for the Omicron variant to reach Philippine shores, the news has still caused a lot of panic among netizens. Given that the country has been slowly opening up after harsh quarantine protocols, there were concerns of stricter quarantine restrictions and a new spike in cases. Only time can tell how big the impact of the Omicron variant will be in the country. Until then, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Art Daniella Sison