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PH detects third Omicron variant case; Filipinos urged to get vaxxed ASAP

By NICK GARCIA Published Dec 20, 2021 2:23 pm

The Philippines has detected its third Omicron COVID-19 variant case from a Filipino who came from the Middle East, the Department of Health (DOH) announced on Dec. 20.

In an online media briefing, DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said the third Omicron case is an unvaccinated, 36-year-old returning overseas Filipino (ROF) male from Qatar, who also has a travel history in Egypt.

He arrived at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport on Nov. 28 and underwent quarantine in an isolation facility upon arrival.

The third Omicron case's sample was collected Dec. 4, and the test results came out the very next day. He is asymptomatic since arrival, Vergeire noted.

On Dec. 19, he took a retest, which came out negative. He's now undergoing home quarantine in Cavite and has been endorsed for vaccination, the DOH spokesperson said.

Vergeire added that the third case also had three close contacts in the flight. They have all since tested negative in a retest.

In a mall vaccination site in Rizal, meanwhile, presidential adviser on COVID-19 response Vince Dizon urged unvaccinated Filipinos to get their jabs as soon as possible in light of the threat of the Omicron variant.

Dizon also reminded individuals who are eligible for booster shots to take them already.

"Huwag niyo nang hintayin ang 2022. Magpabakuna na kayo ngayon. Iyan na ang best Christmas gift ninyo sa mga sarili niyo at sa mga pamilya niyo," Dizon told mallgoers on Monday. 

Dizon warned the public against complacency amid the country's declining number of COVID-19 cases. He took note of the surge of COVID-19 cases in New York, which saw as high as 21,900 new daily cases over the weekend.

"Huwag natin iisipin na por que mababa ang mga kaso natin, di mangyayari sa atin iyan," he said.

The country's first two imported Omicron variant cases are an ROF who traveled from Japan on Dec. 1, and a Nigerian national who arrived from Nigeria on Nov. 30.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in its technical brief last Dec. 13 said that current limited evidence suggests that Omicron variant has a "growth advantage" over the already infectious Delta variant, in as much as it "suggests a reduction" in vaccine efficacy.

"Given the current available data, it is likely that Omicron will outpace the Delta variant where community transmission occurs," the WHO said.

Dr. Aletheia De Guzman, officer in charge of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, earlier cited studies saying that one Omicron case can infect up to 10 people, vis-à-vis Delta's 8