3 travelers from South Africa, Egypt and Burkina Faso test positive for Covid; PGC retracing samples amid Omicron threat

The Philippine Genome Center is ready to verify the presence of the Omicron variant through whole genome sequencing. (https://pgc.up.edu.ph/)

Samples of three travelers from South Africa, Egypt, and Burkina Faso will be sent to the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) for genome sequencing after their RT-PCR tests yielded positive results from Covid-19, an official of the Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday.

Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that they are part of the 253 travelers who arrived in the country between November 15 to 29.

“Among the 253 arrivals from South Africa from Novem 15-29, we only have one reported positive. According to One Health Pass data: 23-year-old male overseas Filipino worker who arrived on November 16. We are verifying information and isolation status,’ Vergeire said adding that the sample received at PGC on Thursday and will be included in next sequencing run. No details was given for the two other travelers from Egypt and Burkina Faso who also contracted the virus.

Also, of these 253 arrivals, 71 have been located. All are undergoing quarantine.

There were 68 returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and 3 foreign nationals.

“Also of 71 from South Africa, 4 have been tested – 3 were negative , all foreign nationals, and 1 pending result, an ROF. Sample collection is ongoing,” Vergeire said adding that the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) and Regional Epidemiology Unit are undertaking backtracing.

“We are continuously updating these information,” she assured.

Vergeire said the PGC is doing the regular biosurveillance and even the back tracing, and retrospective sampling.

“We will find out and hopefully this strategy of ours, we can be able to immediately detect and determine kung naandito na nga ang Omnicron,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire said that after the detection of Omicron variant in other countries, noted that under the latest guidelines on Omicron, Inter-Agency Task Force issued Resolution No.151 which stated that the BOQ, Department of Interior and Local Government, and local government units (LGUs) to locate passengers from November 15 to 29 from Red list arrivals.

“They should complete 14-day home quarantine from arrivals as Day 1 and retest if with symptoms,” Vergeire said in an online forum.

Meanwhile, Vergeire, when asked if the Covid-19 cases will continue to decline, she responded: With the threat of the Omicron variant, hindi po natin alam (we don’t know).

With the threat of Omicron variant, Vergeire said that they continue to do to the strategies, that worked for the country, delaying the entry of Delta in the country before.

“We would like to adapt it again (strategies) and make it better,” Vergeire said.

“We were able to delay the entry of Delta variant here in the country for about a month before we experienced that our cases was increasing. So this is very important lesson for all of us. We closed our borders early enough. We implemented strict protocols in our borders early enough. And we did our surveillance in our community and intensified our community response. So we were ble to delay the onslaught of the Delta variant here in the country,” she furthered.

However, she stressed that unlike the situation before after Delta was detected in the country, the number of people inoculated against Covid-19 is much higher now.

“And I think, this would be an additional protection for all of us when the Omicron variant enters the country,” she stressed.

On Friday, the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country stood at 2, 833,878 after 544 additional infections were logged.

There were also 734 recoveries and 235 deaths.


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