MANILA — It is still "too early" to shorten isolation period for asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, in light of the threat of the highly contagious omicron variant, the Department of Health said Tuesday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made this remark in response to the recommendation of US health authorities to halve the isolation time for people with asymptomatic COVID-19 infections, from 10 to 5 days.
"This has to be discussed thoroughly with our experts. But based from my knowledge, I think this is too early because of the threat of the omicron," Vergeire told ANC's "Headstart".
She said there is still no complete evidence regarding the characteristics of the omicron variant. Many countries are still falling behind in administering the anti-virus jabs, she added.
"This might pose as a risk rather than of benefit to countries because it may only lead to infection," she said in a mix of Filipino and English.
In the Philippines, immediate isolation is required of any individual with fever or at least 2 or more symptoms of COVID-19.
According to the Department of Health, all asymptomatic confirmed cases shall be placed in isolation for a minimum of 10 days from the first viral diagnostic test.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the 5-day isolation period be "followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others."
The agency said the new guidelines were "motivated by science," which had demonstrated that the majority of COVID-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally 1 to 2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and in the 2 to 3 days after.
"The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society," CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement announcing the change.
"These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives."
The updates came as the highly transmissible omicron strain has sent cases skyrocketing across the United States, once again disrupting lives and a global economy battered by almost two years of the pandemic.
Since the pandemic began, the Philippines has logged over 2.8 million COVID-19 cases, with 51,000 fatalities and around 9,500 active cases.
On Monday, the country confirmed its fourth case of the omicron variant in a Filipina who came from the United States.