THE Department of Health (DOH) said Monday, January 3, that both the highly transmissible Delta and Omicron variants of Sars-CoV-2, which causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), are already circulating in the country.

DOH spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a media forum Monday, January 3, 2022, that as of December 31, 2021, 42.48 percent of the samples tested have yielded positive for Delta, while 0.07 percent were positive for Omicron.

She said when Omicron was first detected in the country, only two of the 48 samples sequenced (4.17 percent) have tested positive for the variant, but recently, 10 out of 48 samples (28.83 percent) have turned out positive for it.

"Based on observation sa ngayon, ang assumption natin na andyan na siya sa (our assumption is it’s already in the) community because we have seen the sudden increase in the number of cases," Vergeire told reporters.

"Sa ibang bansa, according to our experts, ang pagtaas ng kaso nagdo-double ang numero ng mga kaso every two days. Dito po sa Pilipinas, nakikita na po natin ang trend na ganyan. Kaya ang ating assumption ay nakarating na sa ating komunidad ang Omicron," she added.

(In other countries, according to our experts, the cases double every two days. In the Philippines, we can see that trend already. That's why our assumption is Omicron is now in the communities.)

The Philippines currently has three local Omicron variant cases and 11 imported cases, of which nine were returning Filipinos and two were foreign nationals.

Vergeire said all cases were either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, but most have already finished their minimum 10-day isolation period.

Two cases of Omicron variant have remained active, added Vergeire.

She said the DOH have identified three close contacts of the local cases, of which one tested negative for the virus, while two have yet to undergo retesting.

"Lahat po ng local cases natin had been traced, nakakumpleto ng 10-day isolation as required (All the local cases have been traced and have completed their 10-day isolation as required)," the health official said.

She reminded the public, especially those who have symptoms of Covid-19, to immediately isolate themselves to prevent the spread of the virus.

She said close contacts of confirmed and suspected cases must go on quarantine for seven days if they are vaccinated and 14 days if they are unvaccinated.

Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvaña, an expert and consultant of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, also advised the unvaccinated Filipinos to have themselves jabbed not just to protect themselves, but also other people.

“Based on pinapakita, maraming nagkakaroon ng breakthrough infections, even in those vaccinated and boosted, and ang pagtaas ng mabilis, there's a possibility na meron na Omicron na umiikot,” he said.

(Based on observations, many have breakthrough infections, even those vaccinated and boosted. The sudden increase in cases shows a possibility that Omicron is also circulating.)

“Tha's why, very important na magpabakuna pa rin tayo. Yung Delta na mas nakakamatay, umiikot pa rin (That’s why, it is very important to get vaccinated. Delta, which is highly transmissible, is still around). Protect yourself and other people. And if you qualify, get boosted,” he added.

As of January 3, the Philippines has logged 2,855,819 Covid-19 cases, of which 24,992 have remained active. The country’s Covid-19 death toll stood at 51,586. (SunStar Philippines)