Omicron COVID-19 variant spreads to 24 counties – WHO

Robie de Guzman   •   December 2, 2021   •   272

MANILA, Philippines – The Omicron variant of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been detected in 24 countries as of Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The WHO said the United States is the latest country to be included in the list after it confirmed its first case of the heavily mutated and potentially more contagious variant as it continues to spread across borders.

The US said its first case of Omicron variant was a traveler in California who returned from South Africa on November 22. The case tested positive on Monday as reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other countries that have confirmed cases of Omicron variant include Australia, Canada, South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Germany, Israel, Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus said the variant’s mutation should not surprise countries, as this is what viruses do.

He said available “tools” such as vaccines, should be used to contain the spread of the COVID-19 variant.

The WHO official also noted that the Delta variant is still responsible for most COVID cases worldwide and curbing its spread will also help contain Omicron.

“At the same time, we must not forget that we are already dealing with a highly transmissible, dangerous variant – the Delta variant, which currently accounts for almost all cases globally,” he said.

“We need to use the tools we already have to prevent transmission and save lives from Delta. And if we do that, we will also prevent transmission and save lives from Omicron,” he added.

“But if countries and individuals don’t do what they need to do to stop transmission of Delta, they won’t stop Omicron either,” he further stated.

Tedros said medical experts are still looking into the Omicron variant to understand how it affects transmission and its severity, and whether it will alter the effectiveness of COVID tests, treatment, and vaccines.

Labor dept asks employers to provide workers with paid isolation, quarantine leave benefits

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday urged employers in the private sector to provide paid leave benefits to workers who have to undergo isolation or quarantine period due to COVID-19.

In a labor advisory, DOLE said this is to “ensure safe and humane working conditions” amid the rising cases of coronavirus in the country.

The labor department said employers in the private sector are encouraged to adopt and implement appropriate paid isolation and quarantine leave program, on top of the existing leave benefits under the company policy. Leave benefits under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Labor Code of the Philippines, and special laws should be separately applied.

“The paid isolation and quarantine leaves shall be without prejudice to other benefits provided by the Social Security System and the Employees Compensation Commission,” it added.

DOLE said its advisory applies to all establishments, employers, and their employees in the private sector.

Under the updated guidelines from the Department of Health, fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms need to isolate for seven days while those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated need to complete the isolation period for 10 days.

The isolation period for moderate cases is 10 days while those with severe and critical symptoms, and immunocompromised would have to isolate for 21 days.

The quarantine period for fully vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts has been shortened to five days.

Isolation is for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 while quarantine is for those who have been exposed and can possibly develop an infection.

Philippines posts 37,070 new COVID-19 cases; active tally at 290K

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Monday logged 37,070 additional cases of COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said, pushing the country’s total confirmed cases to 3,242,374 since the pandemic started.

Data released on Monday showed that about 36,001 of the new cases occurred between January 4 to January 17.

Most of the cases were recorded in Metro Manila, CALABARZON, and Central Luzon.

This is the sixth straight day that the country logged more than 30,000 new infections, and the fourth day that it announced record-high cases – 39,004 cases last Saturday, 37,207 on Friday, and 37,154 on Sunday.

The new tally brought the number of active infections to 290,938, the DOH said.

Of the newly reported cases, 9,187 were asymptomatic, 277,020 were mild, 2,947 were moderate, 1,480 were severe, and 304 were in critical condition.

The positivity rate was at 46% based on 77,410 tests administered on January 15.

The DOH reported 23 more fatalities, pushing the number of COVID-related deaths to 52,929.

There were 33,940 more recoveries, raising the total number to 2,898,507.

Twelve laboratories were not able to submit their data on time. These facilities contribute on average 5.1% of the samples tested and 5.1% of positive cases.

The utilization rate of intensive care units in use nationwide was at 49% while 58% in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Isolation beds being utilized across the country was at 47%, and 48% in NCR.

Ventilators in use in the capital region was at 22% and 30% in the capital region.

OCTA: COVID-19 growth rate in NCR slows down to -1%

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The growth rate of COVID-19 is decreasing in Metro Manila, the OCTA Research group said on Monday.

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said the daily growth rate of the seven-day moving average in the region has slowed down to -1 percent.

“Base sa datos kahapon na may 15,959 cases ay bumaba ang daily growth rate to negative 1 percent from 2 percent. So ibig sabihin, naging negative na, mukhang pababa na ng kaunti,” David said in a televised public briefing.

“Pero again di pa tayo pwedeng mag-celebrate,” he added as he stressed the need to closely monitor the case trends in the coming weeks to see if figures are really declining in the NCR.

In a post on Twitter, David said that the growth rate over the past four days, in order, were 11%, 5%, 3%, and 2%.

The region’s COVID-19 reproduction number also went down to 2.67 from around 6.16 recorded last January 2. The rate refers to the number of people infected by one positive case.

While this trend is encouraging, and suggesting the possibility that cases in the NCR have peaked, David said that the possibility still remains that visibility of the situation in the region is clouded because of limitations in testing.

And though the peak may be nearing in the NCR and other nearby areas, David noted that there are many areas outside in the country that have shown an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“Actually, all over the country now, we’re starting to see an increase in cases, kaya makaka-affect ito sa sinasabi nating peak kung pinag-uusapan buong bansa,” he said. “Pero possible na sa NCR, tsaka Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal ay baka malapit na ang peak o nagpi-peak na tayo.”

David urged those in the provinces to get vaccinated or boosted against COVID-19 to protect themselves from hospitalization and severe form of the disease.

He also advised the public to continue adhering to public health protocols such as the proper wearing of face mask, social distancing, and refrain from unnecessary travel to help curb COVID-19 transmission. (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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