MANILA, Philippines – The highly transmissible Omicron variant is now the dominant coronavirus variant in the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
Based on the latest whole genome sequencing conducted on January 3, Duque said that 6.42 percent or 29 out of the 48 samples tested were found with the Omicron variant while 37.5 percent or 18 were Delta variant.
“So siya na po ‘yung nagdo-dominate na variant whereas before it was the Delta. So 60 percent of all the sequence runs ay Omicron na po,” Duque said in his report during a pre-taped public briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte aired late Monday.
The Department of Health (DOH) last week reported it has detected a total of 43 cases of Omicron variant in the country.
The Philippines on Monday reported 33,169 new COVID-19 infections, a new record daily spike. The latest data has pushed the country’s total caseload to nearly 3 million since the outbreak in 2020.
Duque also reported that the average daily reported cases jumped by 690 percent from January 4 to 10 with an average daily increase of 20,481 cases compared to the 7-day moving average from December 28 to January 3 at 2,593.
“So napakalaki po nang itinaas nito,” he said.
He added that most of the newly reported cases were from the National Capital Region, followed by the Region 4A and Region 3.
This means that three regions were in critical risk classification, while other regions were in high risk. This also meant that the whole Philippines is at critical risk classification for COVID-19.
“Ang Pilipinas nasa 3,663 percent, positive po ‘yan na talagang ang tulin, ang bilis ng kalat ng mga kaso. At ang kanyang average daily attack rate nasa 10.47 per 100,000 (population). Lampas po ito doon sa one to seven which was moderate about four weeks ago. Ngayon, lumampas na po tayo kaya critical na po tayo,” he said.
“Kaya napakamahalaga po na bantayan itong mga lugar na ito at paigtingin ang atin pong tugon gamit ang ating mask, hugas, iwas, ventilation, and vaccination strategy,” he added.
Duque also noted an increase in the utilization rates of hospital, intensive care unit (ICU) and mechanical ventilation nationwide.
He said that as of Monday, January 10, forty percent (40%) of hospital beds are being used for COVID-19 cases, while 38 percent for ICU, and 17 percent for mechanical ventilation.
“Karamihan ng mga rehiyon ay nagkaroon ng kani-kanilang pagtaas ng tatlong panukatan at ‘yun na nga… Kaya naman aming pinaaalalahanan ang mga ospital na bigyang prayoridad ang pagtanggap o pag-admit ng atin pong mga moderate, severe, at critical cases at makipag-ugnayan sa atin pong One Hospital Command Center upang mai-refer ang mga mild at asymptomatic na pasyente sa mga Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs),” he said.
“At kung papasa sa requirements ay maaaring sa kani-kanilang mga bahay na po mag-isolate ang mga ito. So napakamalaking bagay po na sundin po ito para madecongest ang ating mga facilities,” he added.
The health chief also noted that compared to previous COVID-19 case surges, there were less severe and critical cases.
“Habang nakikita natin na patuloy na tumataas ang ating mga kaso nationwide, ating nakikita rin po na mas mababa ang ating naitatalang severe at critical cases kung ikukumpara noong ating kasagsagan noong nakaraang September 2022 na kung saan ‘yung Delta variant ang rumaragasa,” he said.
Of the 8,569 total hospital admissions as of January 9, Duque said that 636 or 7 percent were severe, while 271 or 3 percent were critical cases.
“Ang sinasalamin po nito ay ang pagiging epektibo ng atin pong pagbabakuna at pagsunod sa minimum public health standards: ang mask, hugas, iwas,” he said.
Duque said the Philippines has experienced four cases surges already excluding the current one.
“We actually already have four surges ano po. Ito ‘yung March-April; JulyAugust; then we have the April — March-April; and then we have the latest which was August-September,” he said.
He called on local government units to further intensify the implementation of public health protocols and contact tracing, as well as impose granular lockdowns in communities with reported cases clusterings.
Duque also reminded the public to remain vigilant by properly wearing face masks, avoid gathering and activities in crowded places, and get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible.
He also stressed the importance of immediately going into isolation when a person experiences the onset of cough, fever, colds and other flu-like symptoms to prevent transmission.
“Kung ikaw ay nakararanas ng sintomas, agad po tayong mag-self-isolate, bigyang alerto ang lahat po ng inyong barangay health emergency response teams sa inyo pong komunidad, at magpasuri o magpa-test sa tamang panahon,” he said.
“Muli, nananawagan kami sa lahat na tayo ay magtulung-tulungan at gawin natin ang ating bahagi upang mapigilan ang patuloy na pagtaas ng mga kaso at muling maibaba ito,” he added.