The Department of Health has confirmed that the country has detected its first two cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
In a statement, the health agency said that the cases were imported from a Returning Overseas Filipino (ROF) who traveled from Japan on Dec. 1 and a Nigerian national who arrived from Nigeria on Nov. 30. The two travelers are now reportedly being isolated by the Bureau of Quarantine.
"At present, active case finding and contact tracing are being conducted to determine the health condition of co-passengers of the said confirmed cases," said Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles.
"We assure our people that we will closely monitor developments of the two cases in light of existing protocols, as we continue to remind the public not to let their guard down, to religiously observe minimum public health standards and call upon all those unvaccinated to get their jabs as soon as possible."
The Omicron strain first detected in South Africa has been dubbed as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its number of mutations and early evidence of increased reinfection.
Local health authorities have also warned of the possibility of the highly transmissible variant entering the country beforehand.
"From the start, sinabi na natin na hindi naman po masasabi at hindi natin sasabihin definitely na hindi makakapasok," said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Dec. 11.
"Ang pinaguusapan natin diyan, kung kailan as to when it will enter the country... The chances are there. Mataas po ang tsansa na makapasok dito sa atin. At tayo naman po ay nagpe-prepare.”
On Dec. 14, the WHO reported that the Omicron variant has already spread to 77 countries, not counting the Philippines' tally today.
"77 countries have now reported cases of Omicron, and the reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet," said WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus.