Press Release | 31 December 2021

The Department of Health (DOH), the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) report the detection of seven (7) imported cases and three (3) local cases of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of concern which was detected from the 48 samples sequenced today, December 31, 2021.

The seven imported cases of the Omicron variant include six Returning Overseas Filipinos and one Malaysian national. Three of the cases arrived from the United States via Philippine Airlines flight numbers PR 127 on December 16 and PR 103 on December 15. Meanwhile, two arrived from the United Kingdom via the connecting flights of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 910 on December 15 and Emirates Airlines flight EK 332 on December 9. Another case arrived from the United Arab Emirates through Philippine Airlines flight 659 on December 19, and the last imported case arrived from Ghana through the connecting flight of Qatar Airways flight number QR 930 on December 14. The husband of the fourth Omicron case previously announced is among these seven cases. All other details are currently being verified.

The DOH is currently verifying the test results and health status of all co-passengers to determine if there are other confirmed cases or passengers who became symptomatic after arrival. Travelers who have arrived in the Philippines through these flights may opt to call the DOH COVID-19 Hotlines at (02) 8942 6843 or 1555, or their respective LGUs to report their status.

Meanwhile, of the three local Omicron variant cases, two are from the Bicol Region while the other is from the National Capital Region.

The first local case is a 42-year-old male from NCR who tested positive on December 3 and was tagged as recovered on December 17. The second local case is a 27-year-old female from Bicol Region who tested positive on December 14. Meanwhile, the third local case is a 46-year-old female from Bicol Region who tested positive on December 15. All cases have been tagged as recovered.

Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Units (RESUs) are currently investigating these local cases and tracing all their possible close contacts. The DOH said that while more definitive data is needed, The epidemiological investigation on the 3 local cases indicates there is a high possibility of local transmission. The DOH added that further information regarding these cases will be announced during the regular DOH Media Forum on Monday, 3 January 2022.

With the detection of local cases of Omicron, the DOH sternly warns the public against disregarding our minimum public health standards (MPHS) and testing and isolation or quarantine protocols.

“This holiday season, we continue to remind LGUs to conduct active case finding to identify cases and clusters. They may also implement granular lockdowns as needed. LGUs should also prepare isolation facilities for individuals who cannot do home quarantine or isolation. Lastly, increase vaccination coverage among the high-risk groups such as senior citizens and those with underlying conditions to reduce hospitalization and deaths due to COVID-19,” Health Secretary and IATF Chairman Francisco T. Duque III said.

“We also have to keep our healthcare utilization at a manageable level. We can do this by working together to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. All eligible individuals should get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible. We can also use surgical masks, double masking, or complementing cloth masks with a face shield. We urge those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 to isolate, get tested, and finish the prescribed duration. Lastly, if we can, let us do home isolation supported by regular teleconsultation,” said Secretary Duque.