THE recent surge of Covid-19 cases in Davao Region may be attributed to the newly-detected and highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

In a virtual presser on Thursday, Dr. Rachel Pasion, head of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the Department of Health-Davao Region (DOH-Davao), said the spike of cases in Davao Region could be due to the transmission of the Omicron variant even before it was detected.

“Basically, we can really attribute this to Omicron. We have already local cases of Omicron detected here sa atong region, so we assume that maybe there are really omicron variants circulating here,” said Pasion.

This came after DOH-Davao announced on Thursday, January 20, that five cases of the Omicron variant were detected in Davao Region.

According to DOH-Davao, three of the five confirmed Omicron cases were detected from specimen samples collected on December 23-29, 2021, thus making it possible that the Omicron variant has been circulating in the region since before the new year.

Pasion said that given the variant’s highly-transmissible trait and the holiday gatherings that the public went to last month, this manifested in the surge that Davao is currently experiencing.

“There's really an exponential increase in our cases and because of the presence of the Omicron variant, the time varying (transmission) of the Omicron is really high compared to Delta (variant),” she said.

Although the Omicron variant is more transmissible than the Delta variant, the Omicron possesses influenza or flu-like symptoms that are milder than other variants.

But Pasion added that Omicron cannot be detected based on symptoms, thus it is important for the people to undergo isolation when they start experiencing flu-like symptoms.

“We are really emphasizing isolation among the symptomatic individuals because yun lang po yung maka-cut ng transmission (it will cut the transmission), if we isolate ourselves. Even without subjecting ourselves to testing, we should isolate ourselves so that we cannot transmit more,” said Pasion.

She also urged the public to get vaccinated against the Covid-19.

“Given the data that the majority of our population are vaccinated, our vaccination really protects us from these variants of concerns,” said Pasion. “(As) for prevention, the policy is still the PDITR strategy (Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Reintegration).”

5 Omicron cases

Davao Region detected its first five Covid-19 cases with the Omicron variant, the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao Region announced on Thursday, January 20.

In a press statement released online, DOH-Davao confirmed that three of the cases are returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) while the remaining two are local transmissions with no history of international travel.

“The Department of Health-Davao Center for Health Development confirms the detection of three Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of concern from the 35 specimens sent last December 23 and 29, 2022 to the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) and two more who were tested in other regions,” the statement read.

The five confirmed Omicron cases in Davao Region have been tagged as recovered upon the release of the Whole Genome Sequencing Report.

The first case is a 23-year-old male ROF. He was swabbed at the Philippine Red Cross Clark Molecular Laboratory and the sample was collected on December 18, 2021. He is currently at his residence in Davao del Sur.

The second case is a 27-year-old female and resident of Davao City who arrived from Singapore on December 18, 2021. Her sample was collected on December 21 last year and was processed at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC). She is tagged as fully recovered as of January 2, 2022.

The third case is a 44-year-old male ROF from the United Kingdom who arrived on December 22 last year. He is reported to be fully vaccinated and a resident of Davao del Norte. He completed his 14-day isolation in Manila before traveling to Davao Region. His sample was collected on December 26, 2021.

The fourth case is a 28-year-old, fully vaccinated female and resident of Davao Occidental with no history of international travel. She was swabbed for RT-PCR testing last December 11, 2021.

Lastly, the fifth case is a 63-year-old male who is fully vaccinated and a resident of Davao Occidental with no history of international travel. He was swabbed for RT-PCR testing last December 16, 2021.

With this development, DOH-Davao added that bio-surveillance in the region is heightened and the agency will expand its capacities to detect other variants in the region. The agency will also conduct “intensive case investigation” with the concerned local government units to ensure that the infected individuals and their close contacts will comply with the required isolation period.

“For the respective LGUs of the non-OFW cases, they are currently back tracing to determine their exposures and travel histories,” DOH-Davao said.

With regards to testing of close contact of individuals who tested positive, Pasion said that DOH-Davao will opt for selected or targeted testing of close contacts who manifest symptoms, rather than blanket testing.