Gov’t scored over perceived late detection, poor contact tracing measures vs Omicron variant

December 16, 2021 - 7:02 PM
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People wait for their turn to get vaccinated for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a cinema turned into a temporary vaccination site in San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines, December 15, 2021. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Some members of the local medical community raised the alarm over the perceived delayed detection of Omicron coronavirus variant in the country.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health confirmed the first two cases of Omicron from international travelers.

The two cases were detected from 48 positive samples that were sequenced by the Philippine Genome Center on Tuesday, December 14.

READ: Philippines detects first 2 cases of Omicron coronavirus variant 

Both travelers, however, have been infected two weeks earlier.

One case, a returning overseas Filipino worker who came from Japan on December 1, tested positive for the virus causing COVID-19 on December 7.

He arrived via Philippine Airlines with flight number PR 0427.

The other case, a Nigerian national who arrived from Nigeria on November 30, also tested positive for COVID-19 on the same day.

He arrived via Oman Air with flight number WY 843.

Both individuals are currently isolated in a facility managed by the Bureau of Quarantine.

Some doctors on Twitter criticized the lengthy gap between the date the infected travelers arrived in the country and the country’s detection of Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Omicron detected December 15, 2021. The gap from November 30 until today needs to [be] addressed,” said Dr. Harold Henrison Chiu.

“Let me correct the headline for you: ‘DOH finally detects two cases of the Omicron variant TWO WEEKS AFTER they entered the country.’ Patapos na halos ang 2021 pero WALA pa ring improvement sa pandemic response ang Du30 gov’t,” said Dr. Gene Nisperos in a quote-retweet to a report about the two Omicron variant cases.

Winlove Mojica with the Twitter handle @theskinsensei, on the other hand, advised the public to encourage others to get inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines.

Mojica said this given the perception that the government’s pandemic response will no longer improve.

“Sa totoo lang tayo, kung anuman ang meron sa contact tracing at air circulation sa Pinas, yan na ang best defense natin ngayon. Max na. Wag na umasa sa improvements. Pero may pwede pa tayong gawin bilang mamamayan – magpabakuna. Paki-kulit po ang mga seniors,” he said.

On contact tracing

The DOH was also hit online after it asked the fellow passengers of the Omicron-positive individuals to contact the agency’s COVID-19 hotlines at (02) 8942 6843 or 1555, or their respective local government units to report their status.

Some social media users described the contact tracing measures of the government “poor” nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Yung mga katabi ng Pinoy na OFW sa PAL flight last Dec. 1 na nag positive sa Omicron…nasaan na kayo?” one Twitter user said.

“Contact tracing is your job, not the passengers’, you fools,” another Twitter user wrote.

“SELF-REPORT? What happened to contact tracing?” another Twitter user added.

One online user also asked why the DOH could not contact the passengers themselves.

“If DOH was able to identify the flight and the names of the co-passengers, then why can’t the DOH contact the co-passengers??? The details are literally there. Bakit ang tamad???” the Twitter user said.

The confirmation of the new coronavirus variant in the Philippines came after the national government placed the country under Alert Level 2 until the end of December.

Alert Level 2 is one tier away from the most relaxed alert level in the country.

RELATED: Filipinos told to remain vigilant as DOH detects Omicron ahead of holiday season