PH confirms three local cases of Omicron variant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 31) — The country has reported its first three local cases of the Omicron variant, indicating a high possibility of a local transmission, acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles announced.

In a statement, the Department of Health also 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 DOH said these local cases were detected from 48 samples sequenced on Friday.

Of the three patients, two are from the Bicol Region -- a 27-year-old female who tested positive on Dec. 14 and a 46-year-old female who tested positive on Dec. 15. The other case is a 42-year-old male from Metro Manila who tested positive on Dec. 3.

All patients have already recovered, but regional authorities are still tracing their close contacts.

More information about these local cases will be announced on Monday, DOH said.

Meanwhile, 7 more imported cases have been also detected, of which six are Returning Overseas Filipinos and one Malaysian national.

Three of the cases arrived from the United States via Philippine Airlines flight numbers PR 127 on Dec. 16 and PR 103 on Dec. 15. Another two arrived from the United Kingdom via the connecting flights of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 910 on Dec. 15 and Emirates Airlines flight EK 332 on Dec. 9. One arrived from the United Arab Emirates through Philippine Airlines flight 659 on Dec. 19, and the last patient arrived from Ghana through the connecting flight of Qatar Airways flight number QR 930 on Dec. 14.

The husband of the fourth Omicron case previously announced is among these seven cases, DOH noted.

Test results and health status of all co-passengers are currently being verified to determine if there are additional cases. They are encouraged to coordinate with the DOH or their respective local government to report their status.

Health experts have already observed an uptick in the country’s COVID-19 infections, which OCTA Research group said may not be only because of the holiday season.

The DOH urged the public to avoid being unnecessarily admitted to and occupying beds in health facilities to ensure that only those who really need it – like severe and critical COVID-19 cases – are accommodated.

It also reiterated its call to get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible, follow minimum health protocols, and isolate early if symptomatic and get tested at the right time.

The Philippines so far has 14 Omicron cases after initially reporting four imported ones.