MANILA— The possibility of a case surge due to the new COVID-19 Omicron variant "is not that high," fellows from the OCTA Research Group said, Friday.
While the Omicron variant "appears to be spreading faster" than earlier COVID-19 strains, vaccinated people who contract this type of coronavirus "are only showing mild symptoms at worse," OCTA Research fellow Guido David said in an online press conference.
"Even if we experience an increase in cases, it will not be as bad as our experience with the delta or the alpha or the beta," he said.
"We still do not have enough data. [So far] It is more transmissible but vaccinations may help reduce transmissibility," he said.
Guido explained that initial data shows that one carrier of the Omicron variant may infect up to 10 people, but among fully-vaccinated groups, the strain's reproduction number may drop to 1 transmission.
"The threat of a surge is not that high," he said.
"The threat of another lockdown in the National Capital Region is much, much lower, based on this preliminary information," he said, noting that about 80 percent of adults in Metro Manila have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"Provinces with low vaccine coverage may be vulnerable to surges and lockdowns," he said.
These estimates may change in about 1 to 2 weeks when experts release a clearer clinical profile of the new strain, said Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, another OCTA Research fellow who is also a professor from the University of Sto. Tomas.
"The chances of a surge happening between now and Christmas is very small," he said.
"If there is going to be a surge, it will not be probably this month. It will probably be next quarter, and even then... we have such significant population immunity in the urban areas," he said.
Austriaco urged the government to ensure that communities surrounding international gateways in the country would be adequately protected against the virus.
"This will hopefully provide a wall around the Ninoy Aquino International Airport so that people who arrive... even if they carry it, it will be hard to penetrate the population," he said.
"The same thing must be done around Clark and Cebu," he said, referring to other major port cities.
As of December 2, the Department of Health has yet to detect the presence of the Omicron variant in the Philippines.
The DOH earlier said that it is in the process of tracking down some 183 more travelers from South Africa who arrived in the Philippines between Nov. 15 and 29.
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