8 travelers who arrived from South Africa still missing — DOH

FILE PHOTO Airline ground staff (L) wearing protective gear work at the counter at the airport in Manila. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — Eight travelers from South Africa are confirmed to have arrived in the country but have yet to be located by authorities, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Monday.

South Africa is among the countries where the Philippines has recently implemented a travel ban amid the outbreak of the highly transmissive Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Vergeire said that of the 253 travelers from South Africa that arrived on November 15 to 29, eight are still being tracked or whose whereabouts are still unknown.

“Of the 253 [travelers], 80 had been verified and located — 77 of these are returning overseas Filipinos and three are foreign nationals from Region 6. Eight verified but have not been located yet,” she said in a media forum.

The verification for the remaining 165 travelers is still ongoing, Vergeire said.

Four of the 80 located travelers were already retested for COVID-19 which yielded negative results, while the remaining 76 have not undergone a retest yet.

“Of the four retested, all were negative, including the three foreign nationals and one returning overseas Filipino from Region 6 who were retested last December 1,” the health official said.

Meanwhile, 71 of the located travelers are undergoing facility-based quarantine, four are in home quarantine, and five were already discharged.

As of December 5, Vergeire said that 532 genome sequences were submitted to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data or GISAID, an initiative that “promotes the rapid sharing of data from all influenza and the coronavirus causing COVID-19.”

Of the submitted samples, 226 or 42 percent were from South Africa.

The samples were “from 42 countries or jurisdictions that have reported cases of Omicron, either at their ports of entry or locally.”

Further, Vergeire said that Australia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are included in the list of nations with suspected local transmission of the Omicron variant.

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