January 15, 2022 | 1:13 p.m
MANILA, Philippines — The Health Ministry said Saturday there is community transmission of the highly infectious Omicron variant in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the country’s recent spike in infections reaching unprecedented heights.
“We’re seeing community transmission of the Omicron variant here in the National Capital Region,” Undersecretary for Health Maria Rosario Vergeire said in Filipino on state-run People’s TV.
Community transmission means that an infectious disease has become so widespread in a group of people that the source of the infection can no longer be traced.
“While our entire genome sequencing is lagging behind, we have already established that there are local cases,” Vergeire said, adding that current COVID-19 trends in the country are “characteristic” of an omicron-driven surge.
The Philippines has so far detected 43 cases of the Omicron variant, which is believed to be driving the precipitous rise in COVID-19 infections. There are now 8,497 cases of the Delta variant in the country.
While whole genome sequencing has been slow, Health Minister Francisco Duque III has stated that Omicron is now the dominant variant in the country, surpassing the Delta variant, which previously caused a spike in cases as of August 2020.
From Jan. 6 to Jan. 12, Metro Manila recorded 83,649 cases — the highest in a week — according to preliminary health ministry data.
The new wave of infections, believed to be from the highly infectious Omicron variant, started in Metro Manila and is now spreading outside the capital region, prompting the government’s pandemic task force to tighten coronavirus restrictions across most of the country .
But Vergeire said the DOH is still not seeing the peak in coronavirus cases, even after new infections hit an all-time high on Friday when health officials reported 37,207 new cases.
“We have yet to see the peak that could occur at the end of the month or even later in the second week of February,” she said, adding that active cases could even double by next month.