All close contacts of PH 2 omicron cases identified, negative for COVID: DOH

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 16 2021 01:11 PM | Updated as of Dec 17 2021 03:38 PM

Passengers arrive at the NAIA Terminal 1 on November 29, 2021 amid the IATF ban on 14 countries affected by the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Passengers coming from or have been to the countries under the list within the last 14 days are not allowed to enter the country, amid the threat of the new variant of COVID-19. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Passengers arrive at the NAIA Terminal 1 on November 29, 2021 amid the IATF ban on 14 countries affected by the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Passengers coming from or have been to the countries under the list within the last 14 days are not allowed to enter the country, amid the threat of the new variant of COVID-19. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (3rd UPDATE)— All eight close contacts of the Philippines' first two omicron variant cases have been identified, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.

The only close contact of the returning Filipino from Japan tested negative for COVID-19 on Dec. 4, said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. The 48-year-old male Filipino only had one close contact as he was seated in the business class of Philippine Airlines flight PR 0427, Vergeire added.

All 7 close contacts of the Nigerian national had negative test results released between Dec. 2 and Dec. 3, according to the spokesperson. 

The foreign national was seated at the back of the plane of Oman Air flight WY 843 with those in front of him and his sides included as close contacts, Vergeire said. The remaining close contact is being verified, Vergeire added.

"Ito pong mga pasahero ng eroplanong sinakyan ng individuals na merong omicron, sila po ay nakapag-quarantine ng 5 araw, nakapag-test po sila. Negatibo, kaya po sila ay nasa kani-kanila nang mga tahanan," she told reporters.

(These co-passengers of the two omicron cases underwent quarantine for 5 days, and then they tested negative that's why they were allowed to go home.)

"Wala ho silang threat sa ating community. Napakababa po ng tiyansang sila po ay merong sakit na ganito."

(They're not a threat to our community. There's a very low chance they have this disease.)

Both omicron variant cases are in isolation and closely monitored with repeat RT-PCR test samples to be collected later Thursday, according to Vergeire.

She said not all passengers of the plane would be traced, only the 4 passengers on each side, in front of, and behind the index case, for a total of 16 contacts.

Passengers of both flights are urged to monitor themselves and contact the DOH or their local government if they experience any symptoms, Vergeire added.

The spokesperson disputed remarks that the DOH detected the omicron variant cases "too late," as the returning Filipino arrived on Dec. 1 and tested positive on Dec. 7, while the Nigerian national arrived on Nov. 30 and tested positive on Dec. 7.

"Dec. 7 po nag-positive ang ating individuals na nagkaroon nitong omicron variant. Sinubmit po last week 'yan. Ni-run ng Dec. 13. Lumabas po ang resulta Dec. 14 ng gabi. Dec 15 kami nag-announce. So saying 15 days late, I don’t think so. We have to count properly kung ilang araw po ang nakaraan," Vergeire said.

(The individuals tested positive on Dec. 7. The samples were submitted last week and went under genome sequencing on Dec. 13. The results were released on the evening of Dec. 14. We announced on Dec. 15. Saying 15 days late, I don't think so. We have to count properly how many days went by.)

There is no need to raise the alert levels for now, according to the spokesperson. The entire country is currently under Alert Level 2 as of Tuesday.

"We do not need to panic. We just need to be cautious. We just need to be aware. We just need to be focused," Vergeire said.

"Nagdaan na po tayo lahat dito. Nung nag-delta variant po, kinaya po natin lahat na sugpuin at ipababa ang mga kaso."

(We have gone through these. When the delta variant came, we were able to manage and lower the cases.)

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

There is also no need to close the country's borders, Vergeire added.

"Kailangan din natin intindihin na unang-una, binabalanse (We need to understand that we balance)... we balance health and economy here. We cannot close our borders to the rest of the world," she said.

"We need to understand kung paano po ito makakaapekto sa ating ekonomiya. Sa ngayon (For now), it is not rational for us to close our borders to other countries."

(We need to understand how this will affect our economy.)

Complying with the latest guidelines issued by the inter-agency task force on COVID-19, the Bureau of Immigration said it would implement the updated policy on areas placed in the green, yellow and red lists.

In the red list are Andorra, France, Monaco, Northern Mariana Islands, Réunion, San Marino, South Africa, and Switzerland.

The following areas are included in the Philippines' green list:

  • Bangladesh
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Chad
  • People’s Republic of China
  • Comoros Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
  • The Gambia, Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Hong Kong (Chinese Special Administrative Region)
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Kenya, Kosovo
  • Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Montserrat, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Rwanda
  • Saba (Special Municipality of The Kingdom of the Netherlands)
  • Saint Barthelemy
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Sint Eustatius
  • Sudan
  • Taiwan
  • Timor-Leste (East Timor)
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • United Arab Emirates

All other countries and territories not mentioned are automatically considered part of the yellow list.

Those coming from red list countries or with a travel history there 14 days prior to arrival in the Philippines are not allowed to enter the country, the bureau said.

The policy exempts Filipinos arriving via government or non-government repatriation flights or bayanihan flights. The general travel policy applies to those coming from green and yellow list countries, Immigration commissioner Jaime Morente said.
 
Only Filipinos, balikbayans, and those with long-term visas may enter the country, subject to quarantine policies for each list, as implemented by the Bureau of Quarantine, the agency said.

— With a report from Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News