C. Visayas sends 37 Covid-19 samples for ‘Omicron’ testing

A Department of Health-Central Visayas (DOH-7) official on Tuesday said 37 coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) samples will be sent to the Philippine Genome Center for genomic sequencing to determine if the Omicron variant is already in Region 7.

This, as health authorities in the region put up their guard against the highly transmissible variant of the virus.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH-7 chief pathologist, said in a presser that two of the samples came from the community while 35 were taken from swab specimens of returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).

“We don’t have samples taken from our arriving OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) that will qualify for genomic sequencing studies to determine if they have that so-called Omicron variant,” Loreche said.

In order to qualify for genomic sequencing, the viral load or cycle threshold should be 30 and below in two genes used for detection of any presence of variants of concern.

Loreche confirmed 16 new active Covid-19 infections in Central Visayas, stressing, however, that these additional cases could not be attributed to the presence of Omicron variant unless there is a successful bio-surveillance.

“If you try to ask me, is it really attributed to Omicron variant? I would say 50-50, because we have just passed the holiday season where the movement behavior of the people is high. They go partying, shopping, and going to malls,” she said.

She noted the spike in cases in the National Capital Region shortly after the Christmas rush.

As Metro Cebu is still reeling from the destruction caused by Typhoon Odette, Loreche also warned of a surge in Covid-19 cases originating in evacuation centers where physical distancing became impossible, hand washing was difficult because of lack of water supply, and wearing of face mask was no longer being given so much attention.

Citing the efforts of localities to resume vaccination shortly after the typhoon, the DOH official urged the people to get inoculated and avail of booster shots against Covid-19.

“If you are fully vaccinated and you got your booster shots, if someone in the house is carrying the Omicron variant, the possibility that you can be infected is only at 44 percent,” Loreche said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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