MANILA - The omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic may be upon the Philippines, but the country is ready to ride it out, a health official said Monday.
"It looks like the omicron wave is on us. We’ve seen this globally, across South Africa and Europe. There has been a steady increase in our landscape here in the Philippines in terms of the omicron," Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, the country's treatment czar, told ANC's Headstart.
"Our numbers have doubled and this is the start. We are very sure that this will peak. When it will crest down and decelerate we don’t know. But what is very important is that we are prepared for this omicron virus," he said.
Vega noted that the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV2 causes "mild disease" but because of its high transmissibility, there may be a large volume of infected patients.
"We are preparing our health systems capacity, our testing, our isolation so that we are all prepared for another ride in the waves of this omicron virus," he said.
He said healthcare utilization remains "very low" and hospitals that earlier admitted non-COVID patients for elective surgeries and other services have begun discharging them to be able to accommodate COVID admissions and referrals.
The tightening of restrictions in Metro Manila to Alert Level 3 from a looser Level 4 is a "very proactive kind of stance," he said.
Government is also preparing its temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMF), which can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of omicron cases if the time comes, he said.
"We only have about 115 TTMF beds all over the country. That means if you have an exponential growth in this omicron, we might have problems in terms of isolation or quarantining these COVID-positive patients," he said.
Still, Vega is optimistic the peak of omicron infections can be delayed through health interventions.
"If we can be able to provide the necessary interventions, the very most important public health interventions—masking and social distancing, and very good ventilation if you’re indoors, and vaccination—I think we can actually delay a little the peak. But when it will crest down or decelerate we don’t know, but we should be ready for any eventuality," he said.
A total of 14 cases of omicron infections have been detected in the country as of last week, including 3 local infections.