DOH assumes Omicron community transmission; potential surge to surpass Delta peak

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 4) — The Health Department is "assuming" there is already a community transmission brought by the Omicron COVID-19 variant as another surge is seen at the end of the month. The potential spike is projected to surpass last year's Delta-driven peak.

"We are now assuming that Omicron is in our communities and we are having this transmission within our communities already," Health Usec. Rosario Vergeire told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday.

"According to experts in other countries, cases double every two days. That is what we are seeing right now and the assumption is there, Omicron is in our communities already," Vergeire added.

The DOH said it still needs definitive evidence before formally declaring an Omicron-driven community transmission in the country.

The Health Undersecretary noted that Omicron is eight times more transmissible than the Delta variant. There are 14 Omicron cases already detected in the country, 11 of which are from returning overseas Filipinos, while three are local cases.

"For now, we have initial projections which states that at the end of January, cases will peak," Vergeire added, without disclosing figures.

Vergeire said the country has a positive two-week growth rate of COVID-19 cases at 222%, with an average daily attack rate — or the number of confirmed cases in a certain area or population — of 1.07 per 100,000 individuals.

In August to September 2021, the country logged as high as over 20,000 new COVID-19 infections mostly driven by the Delta variant.

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OCTA Research Fellow Guido David recently said in Metro Manila alone, COVID-19 is infecting people faster than it did during the Delta variant-driven surge last year. Daily cases could even reach as high as 15,000 soon. 

The Philippines is currently labeled "high-risk" for COVID-19 due to rising COVID-19 cases. Metro Manila was placed under a stricter Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15 amid the uptick in COVID-19 cases and the detection of local Omicron variant cases.

READ: PH, NCR at ‘high risk’ again due to rising COVID-19 cases — DOH