MANILA (UPDATE) - Five more returning Filipinos from South Africa, where the omicron variant was first detected, have been located, the Department of Health said Friday.
The development leaves two more travelers to be traced. Both had arrived on Nov. 22 and tested negative for COVID on Nov. 28 and Dec. 3, respectively, according to the health department.
Of the 5 located travelers, 2 are at a quarantine facility with pending test results, while 2 are in home quarantine following negative tests last Nov. 29 and Dec. 8, said Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The remaining traveler has completed the 14-day quarantine and tested negative on Nov. 26, she added.
In total, the agency has located 99 out of 253 travelers who arrived from South Africa between Nov. 15 and 29 while it continues to verify the location of 152 others, according to Vergeire.
Of the 99 travelers, 76 are in an isolation facility, including 3 foreign nationals, while 10 returning Filipinos are in home quarantine, she said.
Twelve Filipino travelers and a foreign national have been discharged after completing the 14-day quarantine. One had tested negative while 12 were not retested as they did not experience any symptoms, Vergeire added.
"Government is continuing our backtracing. We will continue to manage them accordingly. Ang iba (Some are) under home quarantine but we will still continuously monitor them," she told reporters.
Government has yet to penalize any traveler for putting false or incomplete information on their contact tracing forms, Vergeire said.
"Kailangan 'yung due process ipapatupad natin. Bagamat sanctions, penalties, batas na nava-violate, kailangan i-verify pa rin natin. What were the circumstances that led them to give us incorrect numbers of incorrect numbers," she said.
The country had imposed a travel ban on South Africa until Dec. 15 following the classification of the omicron as a "variant of concern."
Early evidence suggests omicron is far more transmissible than any previous variant, but that symptoms may be less severe, according to hospital data from National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for Tshwane in South Africa.
--With a report from Reuters