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Still No Omicron, But 571 Delta Found In Sequencing

Still No Omicron, But 571 Delta Found In Sequencing
This undated handout image obtained by Agence France-Presse on March 28, 2021 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a transmission electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the United States. Virus particles are also shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the laboratory and the spikes on the outer edge give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.

No case of the Omicron variant has been detected from the latest batch of positive swab samples sequenced by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC), the Department of Health (DOH) reported on Monday, Dec. 6.

On the other hand, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said 571 cases of Delta variant were detected, 129 in Cagayan Valley and 118 in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

This brought to 7,848 the number of Delta variant cases detected, or 40.54% of 19,305 swab samples sequenced.

There was also one case each for Alpha and Beta variants, bringing total cases to 3,168 and 3,630, respectively.

“Out of all of those samples tested in this latest whole genome sequencing run, no Omicron variant was detected. Most of the detections were that of Delta variant,” Vergeire said.

She also reported that out of 253 travelers from South Africa that arrived in the Philippines from Nov. 15 to 29, 80 have been contacted. This includes one returning overseas Filipino and three foreign nationals who arrived in Western Visayas. The four were retested on Dec. 1 and were negative for COVID-19. Eight of the 253 remain unlocated while 165 are undergoing verification.

Omicron

The Omicron variant spreads two times faster than the Delta version, OCTA Research Group fellow Guido David said. “Reproduction number in South Africa shows an increase to Rt=4 based on our own SIR (susceptible-infectious-removed) model. In previous surges, the reproduction number increased to less than Rt=2. This supports the view that the Omicron var-iant is at least twice as transmissible compared to the Delta variant,” David said.

“In a natural environment, this means a case of Omicron is likely to infect between 10 to 16 people,” he said.

Lowest

Vergeire also revealed that the Philippines posted the lowest daily tally of cases in recent weeks, after experiencing two “peaks” of COVID-19 cases over the past 16 months.

She said that from Nov. 22 to 29, there were 941 average daily reported cases. This figure fell 42% to 544 cases from Nov. 29 to Dec. 5.

Nationally, the case classification remains at “minimal risk” with a negative two-week growth rate at 37% and a low-risk average daily attack rate (ADAR) of 0.67%. The national health system capacity is also at low risk, ranging from 13.85 to 26.74%.

“This average cases is already nine times lower than those reported in July of 2021 … and Dec. 27 of 2020 to January of 2021,” she said.

“Our major island groups and the National Capital Region Plus areas, majority of them have been on a plateau since the start of November. The rest of Luzon, on the other hand, showed signs of plateauing in case trend in recent weeks,” she added.

Meanwhile, Sen. Sonny Angara yesterday called on the government to improve genome sequencing and biosurveillance capabilities to better respond to health threats brought by new COVID-19 variants.

“There is little information available on the Omicron variant at this time but health experts are one in treating this as a variant of concern. But what is more critical now is our ability to detect these new variants and to come up with the necessary precautions with haste,” Angara said. – With Michael Punongbayan, Paolo Romero