3 travelers from S. Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt test positive for COVID-19

3 travelers from S. Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt test positive for COVID-19

MANILA, Philippines—Three travelers who recently arrived in the Philippines from South Africa, Burkina Faso, and Egypt tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the three travelers arrived in the Philippines between Nov. 15 and 29. She said their samples would be tested for genome sequencing if their cycle thresholds were appropriate for the process.

“Mayroon pong dumating na 253 from South Africa noong Nov. 15 to 29, may tatlo galing Burkina Faso, and mayroong 541 galing sa Egypt. Each of these countries, nagkaroon ng isang traveler who tested positive for COVID-19,” she told an online media briefing.

(There were 253 travelers who arrived from South Africa on Nov. 15 to 29. There were also three travelers from Burkina Faso and 541 from Egypt. Each of these countries had one traveler who tested positive for COVID-19.)

“Mayroong isa out of 253 from South Africa, isa out of 541 from Egypt and isa out of three from Burkina Faso. Lahat po ‘yan ng nagpositive na yan, as long as CT values are appropriate, ipapadala po natin sa Philippine Genome Center (PGC) for whole genome sequencing,” she added.

(One tested positive out of the 253 travelers from South Africa, another one out of the 541 travelers from Egypt, and one of the three from Burkina Faso. All of them who tested positive, as long as CT values are appropriate, will be taken to the Philippine Genome Center for genome sequencing.)

In a Viber message to reporters, Vergeire said that the traveler from South Africa who tested positive for COVID-19 is a 23-year-old male overseas Filipino worker who arrived in the Philippines on November 16.

She said the DOH is verifying the isolation status of the patient. His samples were received by the PGC on Thursday and will be included in the next genome sequencing run.

According to DOH data presented by Vergeire, there are now 35 countries or jurisdictions that have detected cases of the Omicron variant either locally or at their ports of entry. Burkina Faso and Egypt are not included in the list. They are currently categorized as “yellow” or “moderate risk” countries.

The government has temporarily banned inbound flights from South Africa and 13 other countries from Nov. 28 to Dec. 15 following the threat of the Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, Vergeire said that the three South African nationals who arrived in Negros Occidental last Nov. 25 and 26 are fully vaccinated and are currently not exhibiting symptoms.

“They are all undergoing quarantine in rented houses and have undergone re-swabbing last December 1 with pending test results,” she said.

According to DOH, the Omicron variant was first detected in Botswana, Hong Kong, and South Africa in November. South African scientists were the first to announce the discovery of the new variant, saying it has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations. Vergeire noted that with 50 mutations overall, including 30 that are in its spike protein, it is possible that the Omicron variant may cause increased virus transmissibility and “immune evasion.”

However, she said that further studies are needed to better understand the variant’s effect on the virus’ transmissibility, infectivity, and effect on vaccines.
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