PH gov’t tracing 253 passengers from Africa amid looming threat of Omicron

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2021   •   376

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is tracing and monitoring more than 200 travelers who arrived in the country from African nations in the last two weeks amid the threat of new COVID-19 variant called Omicron, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have traced a total of 253 passengers from South Africa who arrived in the Philippines from November 15 to 29.

“BOQ has started to locate these passengers,” Vergeire said in a virtual press forum.

Of the 253 passengers, 249 were returning overseas Filipinos and four were foreigners. Authorities have traced 71 of these individuals.

The number includes three foreigners still in quarantine in Western Visayas after yielding negative test results.

Vergeire said three of these passengers initially tested positive for COVID-19. One passenger came from South Africa, another from Burkina Faso, and the other from Egypt.

She said samples of these travelers may undergo genome sequencing for variant identification.

“We are still processing the batch that we are going to subject to whole genome sequencing for this week. Results might be tonight or maybe tomorrow,” she said.

“Meron pong dumating na 253 from South Africa noong Nov. 15 to 29, may tatlo galing Burkina Faso; and mayroon 541 galing Egypt. Each of these countries nagkaroon ng isang traveler who tested positive for COVID-19,” she added.

The Philippine government banned the entry of travelers – except for Filipino repatriates – from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy until December 15 as a precautionary measure against the Omicron variant.

The DOH said the heavily mutated variant and potentially more infectious than other coronavirus variants have now been detected in 35 countries.

The variant was first discovered in South Africa.

It has been designated as a variant of concern but the World Health Organization said further studies are needed to better understand the variant’s effect on vaccines, treatment, and the virus’ transmissibility.

Self-test kits na aprubado ng FDA, mabibili lang sa mga otorisadong drug outlets – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Maaari nang mabili sa mga lisensiyado at aprubadong drug outlets ang dalawang brand ng COVID-19 Antigen Self-test kits, ayon sa Department of Health (DOH).

Ito ay matapos aprubahan ng Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ang aplikasyon ng special certification ng dalawang kumpanya para sa self-test kits na tinatawag na Abbot’s Panbio at Labnovation Technologies SARS-CoV2 Antigen rapid test.

Una nang iniulat ni FDA officer in charge Oscar Gutierrez na nabigyan na ng sertipikasyon ang dalawang brand at maaari nang gamitin sa bansa.

“Ang Panbio COVID-19 antigen self-test kit ng Abbot available po siya sa 1, 4, 10, and 20 tests per box. At yung SARS-CoV-2- antigen rapid test ng Labnovation Technologies Incorporated ito po ay self-test for home use din. Available po siya ng 2,5, and 20 tests per box,” ani Gutierrez.

Pero paalala ng Department of Health na may tamang proseso at panahon ang paggamit ng self-test kits upang masegurong tama ang ilalabas nitong resulta.

Ayon kay Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, mas mainam gamitin ang self-test kits kung may sintomas ang isang tao upang matiyak na accurate ang resulta ng kit.

“Please use it rationally, use it at the right time at tamang proseso. Ibig sabihin gagamit lang po kayo ng test kapag kayo ay nakakaramdam ng sintomas dahil ang antigen test po ay most accurate pa rin kapag kayo po ay nakakaranas ng sintomas dulot ng COVID-19,” ani Vergeire.

Ang panawagan naman ng Infectious Diseases expert na si Dr. Rontgene Solante, bigyang-prayoridad sa paggamit ng test kit ang mga may sintomas at nasa vulnerable population gaya ng mga matatanda upang agad malaman ang kanilang kondisyon at malapatan ng karampatang lunas.

“I-prioritize natin ang paggamit nitong antigen test doon sa mga may symptoms at vulnerable population. Bakit? Because these are the population that are kailangan na kung mag-positive meron tayong gamot na mga anti-viral or monoclonal antibodies para hindi po lalala ang mga infections nila to severe COVID at hindi sila maho-hospitalize,” ani Solante.

May pagkakaiba rin ang Antigen self-test kits sa rapid test kits na kalimitang ginagamit sa mga ospital at laboratory kaya payo ng DOH sa publiko na basahing mabuti ang instructional manual na nakapaloob sa bibilihing test kits.

“Ang kaibahan nito ay iyong pong specimen na kinokolekta. Ito pong mga self-administered test kits usually would have nasal specimens po ang kinukuha. Ibig sabihin kapag nasal specimen, di ganun kalalim sa inyong ilong ang pagkuha ng specimen for this test kits compared doon sa current na kailangan na guided siya ng health worker at mas malalim ang kinukuhang specimens para rito,” ang paliwanag ni Vergeire.

Paalala rin ng DOH na ang self-test kits ay available lamang sa mga otorisadong botika at hindi maaaring bilhin online.

“Bumili lamang ng self-administered test kits na aprubado nf FDA o galing po sa mga FDA-licensed drug outlets para lagi po tayong makakasiguro ana ito ay ligtas at lagi po tayong makakaseguro na makakapagbigya ng accurate na resulta,” ani Vergeire.

Paalala rin ng DOH sa publiko na i-check ang expiration date ng self-test kits at itago ang opisyal na resibo ng botikang pinagbilhan nito.

Sa ngayon ay isinasapinal na ng DOH ang guidelines, kaakibat ang evaluation ng Research Institute for Tropical Medicine at FDA hinggil sa COVID-19 self-test kits.

“Ang kagawaran namn po ng kalusugan are on our final stages dito po sa pagssusulat ng polisiya at guidelines kung paano natin gagamitin ito sa mercado,” ani Vergeire.

“Siguro po within the week makakapaglabas na tayo nitong guidelines natin,” dagdag pa niya.

Omicron sub-variant na BA.1 at BA.2 naitala na sa Pilipinas – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Kinumpirma ng Department of Health (DOH) na may napaulat nang kaso ng dalawang sublineage ng Omicron COVID-19 variant sa Pilipinas.

Ang BA.1 at BA.2 ang dalawang sub-variant ng Omicron na unang napaulat sa ibang bansa.

Ayon kay DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, ang BA.2 ang predominant ngayon sa mga kasong naitala sa sampung rehiyon sa bansa batay sa pinakahuling whole genome sequencing run.

Ang BA.1 naman aniya ay nakita sa mga nagpositibo sa COVID-19 sa Bicol Region ay returning overseas Filipinos.

Batay sa limitadong datos ukol sa nasabing sublineage, lumalabas na wala naman itong pagkakaiba sa epekto ng parent variant na Omicron.

“Sa ngayon, kailangan natin maipaalala at tandaan ng ating mga kababayan na walang nakitang significant difference sa clinical presentation ang BA.1 at BA.2,” ani Vergeire.

“Kinakailanga pa rin po ng masusing pagaaral dahil limitado pa rin naman ang mga obserbasyo na ating nakukuha,” dagdag pa niya.

Sa kasalukuyan ay nasa 535 ang kaso ng Omicron sa Pilipinas.

Una nang sinabi ng DOH na maituturing nang predominant variant ang Omicron sa National Capital Region at sa iba pang bahagi ng bansa dahil patuloy pa rin ang mataas na kaso ng COVID-19.

Duterte says NPA rebels may get excess supply of COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he will allow members of the New People’s Army (NPA) access to COVID-19 vaccine only if there is an excess supply.

During his taped meeting with some officials aired on Tuesday, Duterte said spare vaccine jabs can be given to NPA rebels so they can also get protection against the viral disease.

“Pagka may sobra, kung may sobra lang, hindi kayo puwedeng unahin kay kalaban kayo sa gobyerno,” he said.

“Tingnan lang ninyo at kung may sobra, ‘di ano. Pero tawagan ninyo na muna ako na kung may sobra, ibigay ninyo sa NPA para hindi ma-COVID-19,” he added.

During the meeting, Duterte also renewed his call on NPA rebels to surrender and avail of the government’s housing and skills training program for rebel returnees.

“This is my order to the military: If they want to surrender, give them the chance to surrender properly,” he said.

“I’ll give you a house, I’ll give you a job, temporary, may suweldo ka na. Kung wala kang alam sa skills, mag-enroll ka muna… sila ‘yung TESDA, magturo sa iyo kung anong klaseng trabaho gusto mo, technical, turuan kayo,” he added.

“Tapusin na natin ito, tutal sinubukan naman natin ‘yang barilan, wala mang nangyari,” he further said.

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