The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday emphasized the process of genome sequencing to determine if the new COVID-19 variant of concern has entered the Philippines.
According to WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, it would be good to sequence all the samples of those who entered the country who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks.
“I think what’s important is to focus on samples of people who were detected positive in points of entry or arrivals during the last 10 days or 2 weeks because the likelihood of detecting the Omicron variant will be higher,” said Abeyasinghe.
According to Abeyasinghe, even from a country with no Omicron case, as long as it is positive for COVID-19, it is crucial to be sequenced.
“We need to be aware of the fact that many countries have limited capacity for whole genome sequencing, and that’s why I am advocating that any returning traveler from overseas should be sequenced as a priority,” he said.
According to Philippine Genome Center Executive Director Cynthia Saloma, they have returned their database and have not found an Omicron variant.
Many are worried about the new variant because it could cause a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
WHO: Intensify genome sequencing to monitor entry of Omicron variant
This is in the face of the continuing decline in cases in the country due to the extent of vaccination. Quarantine restrictions have also been lowered as a result.
“We’d like to assume that it can act like Delta and it can lead to a really high number of cases,” said Dr. Alethea de Guzman, director of the Department of Health Epidemiology Bureau.
Because information on the variant is still limited, it has not been seen to cause more severe illness.
There was also no visible difference in symptoms between the person affected by Omicron and others who became ill due to other variants.
Meanwhile, according to Guido David of the OCTA Research Group, from November 23 to 29, the average daily cases of COVID-19 in Metro Manila dropped to 204.
It last recorded such a low 7-day average since the second week of June last year.
It may drop to 100 by Christmas and New Year if the Omicron variant does not impact the country.