(MNS Photo)

MANILA, Jan 13 (Mabuhay) — The government is set to discuss on Thursday afternoon whether the implementation of travel ban is still practical as the country detects increasing Omicron cases, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Thursday.

In the latest genome sequencing run, the Philippines detected 29 new Omicron cases and 18 new Delta cases from 48 samples.

Duque also said that more than 150 countries have detected the variant.

“So we will see even if it’s still practical to implement our travel ban. So, as a matter of policy, this will have to be resolved later on by the IATF en banc,” he said.

The Philippines imposed travel restrictions over several countries, days after South Africa detected the Omicron variant on November 24.

Meanwhile, the Health secretary stressed that contact tracing is now impractical due to the widespread community transmission.

Duque made the remark after Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said contact tracing is no longer prioritized.

“You will be wasting a lot of resources doing contact tracing when you know that cases are already on an upswing, they’re accelerating, more and more communities are being infected,” Duque said.

According to Duque, there are more impactful activities such as the monitoring of individuals undergoing home isolation, teleconsultations, and vaccination activities.

“Meron naman telepono and then find out how the person is, they can do symptom monitoring of those in home or isolation or quarantine. They can also be used to help in the vaccination activities and several others in health promotion,” he said.

“There are many more activities, high-impact, meaningful activities rather than doing contact tracing when you know it’s now very difficult to contact trace, everyone,” he added.

He also reiterated that the government will prioritize the testing of healthcare workers, senior citizens, and individuals with comorbidities.

Duque said it should be assumed that the COVID-19 numbers presented by the DOH are lower as not all individuals are being tested.

“From the very start, you assume that. All countries assume that that the testing numbers, the positive results, are actually lower as registered with the epidemiology bureau,” he said, adding that the numbers are just “indicative.”

“It just establishes whether we are in an upswing or an uptick or acceleration phase of the surge or are we plateauing or are we in a crescent or downward trajectory,” he said.

Duque also stressed the importance of vaccination and compliance with the minimum public health standards such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing measures.

“I also want to take the opportunity to underscore for the general public, once symptoms are present, they should isolate… wag ka na mag hintay na mag-test pa. If you are symptomatic, you isolate,” he said. (MNS)

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