MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippines has yet to detect the Omicron variant, the Department of Health said Wednesday, after a Filipino worker who returned from South Africa last week was placed under quarantine.
The male Filipino migrant worker is in quarantine in Bacolod City and is so far not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19, according to Bureau of Quarantine Deputy Director Roberto Salvador Jr.
"Just to be clear, no detection yet of Omicron, we are still processing (the) next batch of whole genome sequences," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
The passenger arrived when South Africa was still on the green list, Salvador said.
"Wala naman pong sign and symptoms na namo-monitor sa OFW," he said.
(There are no sign and symptoms on the OFW we are monitoring.)
"So inutusan po tayo ng IATF, ng government na makipag-work sa DILG para i-trace po 'yung mga nakauwi ay galing sa affected country bago po lumabas 'yung protocol sa Omicron," he added.
(We were ordered by the IATF, government to work with the DILG to trace those who arrive here from the affected country even before the protocol on Omicron was released.)
The government imposed a temporary ban on travelers from South Africa and 6 other countries surrounding it on Nov. 26 amid the threat of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, which is supposedly more transmissible and contains several mutations of the virus.
"During that time wala pang South Africa, nasa green list pa... Home quarantine po ang protocol natin do'n pero nung dumating ang IATF resolution po na about Omicron, wala na po ang South Africa, nasa red list na po natin 'yan," Salvador said.
(The protocol that time was home quarantine for passengers arriving here. But when the IATF released the resolution on the red list, South Africa was there.)
He also assured the public that no other traveler from other countries with banned flights have arrived in the country.
The COVID-19 task force has placed Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy under the Red List. The travel ban initially covered South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique.
The Omicron variant, a variant of concern, has a "very unusual constellation" of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body's immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists said last week.