Cebu point of entry of two confirmed Omicron cases
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Cebu has become a point of entry for two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19.
Doctor Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist of the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7), said that the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) hailing from Iloilo and Returning Overseas Filipino (ROF) from Zamboanga City arrived in Cebu in December 2021 and were quarantined for some time.
The OFW came from Kenya and arrived in the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) on December 10, 2021.
The patient was swabbed twice and tested negative to the virus prior to being released to the home province on December 24, 2021.
The patient proved positive to COVID-19 in Iloilo and the genome sequencing proved that the variant is Omicron.
The ROF travelled from the Middle East and arrived in Cebu on December 15, 2021. The patient proved positive to the virus in the swab test that followed and completed a 14-day quarantine here before being released to the home province.
The genome sequencing proved that the ROF had contracted the Omicron variant.
“Basically sa Central Visayas wala pa ta. They are from other regions. The testing is here because the entry point is MCIA (Mactan Cebu International Airport),” said Loreche in a press conference on January 6, 2022.
The chief pathologist said that entry of the Omicron case in Cebu through transiting individuals did not mean that the variant had spread here as both cases were quarantined and isolated during their time here in Cebu.
Technically, she said they were recorded as cases from their respective regions as well so as far as data was concerned, Central Visayas was still Omicron-free.
However, considering that both cases arrived and stayed in Cebu, Loreche said they were now conducting intensive contact tracing to get samples for genome sequencing and find out if the Omicron variant had penetrated the public.
This is why the DOH-7 is urging the public to strengthen their compliance of the health protocols.
“We are very confident that we should have learned from the previous surges. With the Omicron, I believe that as long as our health protocols are in place, we will survive,” Loreche said.
“But the challenge is we were badly hit by the typhoon. Our TTMFs (Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility) were affected. That has to be recovered,” said Loreche.
She said that it was important that the asymptomatic and mild cases of the COVID-19 be treated in the TTMFs so as not to overwhelm the hospitals.
Loreche emphasized that only high risk cases should be the only ones being admitted and treated at hospitals
She said the DOH-7 would be recommending tighter border controls such as requiring negative real-time polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR) or negative antigen tests and a quarantine period for inbound travellers whether from local or abroad.
The DOH-7 will be meeting with the local government units (LGUs) regarding the management of the Omicron variant here.
“We have to increase our testing,” said Loreche.
The current slight rise in cases of COVID-19 cases in Cebu is not yet attributed to the Omicron variant, but due to the increased movement of people.
“With the post typhoon event, yung minimum public health standards nawala eh. They are all in the evacuation centers. Who can still think to wear their face masks properly? Who can still think of social distancing when lining up for water, ATMs, and groceries?” said Loreche.
(With the post typhoon event, our minimum public health standards is gone. They are all in evacuation centers. Who can still think of wearing their face masks properly? Who can still think of social distancing when lining up for water, ATMs, and groceries?)
The post-typhoon situation has caused a surge of other diseases such as diarrhea and waterborne illnesses as well.
The aftermath of the typhoon has caused increased challenges for local government units (LGUs) on maintaining the mimimum public health protocols.
Loreche urged chief executives to look into ways that public health protocos would be practiced and maintained despite the current conditions.
As for Omicron variant itself, the chief pathologists said that based on the data from South Africa, North America, and the United Kingdom, the transmissibility of the variant is high, but it is relatively weaker than the Delta Variant.
Still, vaccinated individuals have a higher chance of recovering faster from the virus should they contract the Omicron Variant.
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