DOH-12 expands biosurveillance on Omicron variant

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 Jan) – The Department of Health (DOH)-Region 12 has expanded its biosurveillance against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the wake of the increasing new infections in the area.

Dr. Sulpicio Henry Legaspi, DOH-12 assistant director, said on Wednesday they submitted all samples of the positive cases detected in the region in the past several days for genome sequencing to check for the possible presence of the highly contagious strain.

He said the surveillance is being done in coordination with the rural health units and molecular laboratories in the region’s four provinces and four cities.

“We still don’t have a case of the Omicron variant but we’re seeing an increase in infections right now,” Legaspi said in a press conference.

DOH-12 reported a total of 284 active cases in the region as of 6 p.m. Tuesday after posting only 90 on Jan. 4, one of the lowest since last year.

The city accounted for 147 of the active cases, increasing by 374 percent from just 31 cases on Jan. 5. South Cotabato and North Cotabato provinces recorded 73 and 40 cases, respectively.

The confirmed COVID-19 cases in Soccsksargen since March 2020 already reached a total of 57,391, with 2,313 related deaths and 54,775 recoveries.

Legaspi said they could not yet say whether the increasing infections in the region, especially in this city, is being triggered by the Omicron variant pending the ongoing genome sequencing.

He said they expect the release of the results from the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) in 14 days.

Among the samples submitted for genome sequencing included that of a recovered COVID-19 patient who was confined at the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital last month, according to Dr. Conrado Braña, hospital chief.

He said the patient turned out positive after arriving from Metro Manila and exhibited a low cycle threshold or CT value in a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

“That is an indication of a possible variant infection. Hopefully, it’s not Omicron,” Braña said.

Dr. Dyan Zubelle Parayao, head of the DOH-12 epidemiology and surveillance unit, earlier said they warn rural health units early regarding suspected variant cases to ensure immediate intervention.

The biosurveillance process involves the collection of suspected samples, validation, approval of sample list, and their submission to UP-PGC for whole genome sequencing or analysis of the genetic code.

She said the results come out in two to three weeks, with the probable cases usually tagged by then as already recovered. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)