By CNN Philippines Staff
Published Dec 16, 2021 12:12:39 PM
Updated Dec 16, 2021 2:49:00 PM
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 16) — There is a need to trace and test the passengers who were on the same flights as with the country’s first confirmed Omicron cases, appealed an expert on infectious disease on Thursday.
Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Unit of San Lazaro Hospital, told CNN Philippines’ The Source that the government should go beyond merely tracing the close contacts of the index cases.
“The contact there might not just be inside the plane. There may be contact prior to boarding, or during the time when these two passengers were around their co-passengers,” he explained.
“We don’t know. To be safe, all of those inside the planes should be tested and contact-traced.”
Solante emphasized that transmission among secondary or tertiary contacts is highly probable and therefore the matter must be addressed.
“Hindi natin alam ang secondary or even tertiary contacts of these people,” he added. “That’s what we don’t want to happen kasi pag nandyan na ang infection sa community, that’s really chaotic.”
[Translation: We don’t know who may have been their secondary or tertiary contacts. That’s what we don’t want to happen considering it’s really chaotic if the infection reaches the community.]
On Wednesday, the Department of Health confirmed that the first two cases of the Omicron variant detected from genome sequencing of 48 samples were international travelers. Both are currently isolated in a facility under the Bureau of Quarantine.
The first Omicron case is a returning overseas Filipino who arrived from Japan on December 1 via Philippine Airlines with flight number PR 0427. The second case is a Nigerian national who arrived on November 30 via Oman Air with flight number PR 0427.
One of the two is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said there is no need to quarantine all passengers in both flights.
“Lahat ng sumakay sa flight na ‘yan were quarantined when they came here in the country,” she said in a media briefing. “Hindi po natin kailangan i-quarantine lahat kung 200 man ang nakasakay diyan para i-test dahil sila ay nag-test nang negative. Meron silang pre-departure na negative test at na-quarantine nang limang araw at negatibo pa rin sila.”
[Translation: All the passengers in those flights were quarantined when they came here in the country. We don’t need to quarantine all the 200 passengers to have them tested since they already tested negative for the virus. They already had a pre-departure test where they yielded a negative result and were quarantined for five days and they still tested negative.]
In a public advisory on Wednesday evening, the Health Department did not state if passengers onboard the said flights were required to submit themselves to authorities for tracing and testing.
These travelers were simply asked to monitor their health conditions. Should there be an onset of symptoms, they are urged to contact their Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams in their localities or via DOH hotlines 02 894 1555.
Local government units must also report them to the DOH and isolate them after exhibiting symptoms anytime during the 14 days after their arrival.
Meanwhile, Solante said there is no need to extend the mandatory 14-day quarantine period as long as there is monitoring and observation of the close contacts.
Those entering the Philippines must present a negative RT-PCR test result within 72 hours prior to departure from their point of origin. They are likewise required to have a facility-based quarantine until the release of the result, as well as undergo a swab test on their fifth day after arrival. They must also do self-monitoring at home until the 14th day regardless of a negative result.
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