(MNS Photo)

MANILA, Dec 4 (Mabuhay) — The Philippine Health Department said Saturday the COVID-19 Omicron variant is not yet present in the country.

In a public briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there are no areas in the country that are experiencing sudden increases in new COVID-19 cases, which would indicate the presence of the new variant.

“If you see in the other countries, nagpuputukan ‘yung mga kaso nila, biglang tumataas yung numero,” she said. “Dito naman po sa ating bansa ay hindi pa natin nakikita. So sa tingin ko po sa ngayon hindi pa ho nakakapasok ang variant na ito sa ating bansa.”

Authorities are currently monitoring 253 individuals who came from South Africa, as well as 3 passengers from 3 other African countries who flew here before these areas were placed on the red list.

Vergeire said there is no need to panic and that the public should instead continue complying with health protocols.

“Yes, this variant has a lot of mutations na kailangan po cautious tayo,” she said. “But hindi po natin kailangan mag-panic at matakot. Kailangan lang po sumunod tayo sa ating mga safety protocols.”

The DOH expects the number of new COVID-19 cases in the country to continue falling until the end of December.

On Friday, the Philippines logged 544 new COVID-19 infections, the country’s third lowest daily figure so far this year.

On the same day the Interior and Local Government Department said holding Christmas parties at limited capacity is allowed in areas under COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

But Vergeire reiterated the DOH’s call on Filipinos to stick to virtual Christmas parties for now.

That’s after 13 people were infected with the Omicron variant after attending a Christmas party in Norway. So far, this is the biggest outbreak of the new variant outside of South Africa.

“The virus is still here; let’s continue to practice the safety protocols,” Vergeire said. “Let’s have that sacrifice first para sa kapakanan ng ating pamilya at sa kapakanan po ng buong sambayanang Filipino.”  (MNS)

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