Cabinet Secretary and Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles (File photo)

MANILA – Countries, jurisdictions, and territories are only included in the Philippines’ “red list” after they have announced local transmission for new Covid-19 variants, Malacañang said on Monday.

Amid calls to include Hong Kong on the red list or destinations at high risk of Covid-19 infection, Cabinet Secretary and Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles said that Hong Kong has yet to report a case of local transmission.

“We are acting with a sense of urgency…Ang napagdesisyunan natin sa IATF yung pagre-redlist ng mga countries will be dependent kung mayroon nang local case ng Omicron doon sa bansa na ‘yun (The IATF has decided that including countries on the red list would depend on whether the said country has a local case of Omicron),” Nograles said in a Palace press briefing.

He explained that since Hong Kong has only confirmed imported infections as of Sunday, it will remain on the “yellow” list or destinations at moderate risk of Covid-19 infection.

“Kung imported case siya (If it’s an imported case), then we have the option of retaining the status of the country whether yellow or green,” he said.

“Green” countries, jurisdictions, and territories are those at low risk of Covid-19 infection.

However, Nograles said the risk classification could change based on destinations’ surveillance activities, genome sequencing, and detection of cases of the Omicron variant.

“Pero puwede ma-override ‘yan kung sa tingin ng IATF at mga eksperto natin hindi ganun kaganda ang nakikita natin na surveillance activities na ginagawa dun sa bansang 'yun at hindi ganun kaganda at hindi tayo ganun ka-confident sa ginagawa nilang mga genome sequencing at hindi rin tayo confident sa pagde-detect ng mga local cases ng Omicron sa bansang iyon (It could be overridden if the IATF and experts think that the destination is not doing a good job in terms of surveillance activities; if we’re not confident with their genome sequencing and detection of local cases of the Omicron variant),” he added.

He assured that measures and policies are in place to control the spread of the Omicron variant.

“We’ll take it one step at a time…We’ve been through this before. Yung IATF ay agaran naman kung kinakailangan magconvene at agaran magbigay ng new policy directives, actions ay agad naman natin ginagawa (The IATF quickly convenes and gives new policy directives, actions if necessary),” he said.

Meanwhile, he enjoined the public to adhere to the government’s Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Test- Reintegrate (PDITR) strategy and comply with minimum public health standards.

“Ano ba ang maiaambag ng publiko (What can the public do to help)? Yung PDITR plus vaccination—that is how you can help us in government fight this Omicron variant,” he added.

On Sunday, Dr. Tony Leachon, a former adviser of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, said the government must decide "with a sense of urgency" when it comes to travel restrictions on Hong Kong to prevent the entry of the Omicron variant.

"It would be prudent on our part to suspend inbound travelers, particularly from Hong Kong, because of the close proximity of that country to our shores. And considering also the number of overseas contract workers who are homebound for the holiday season,” Leachon said.

As of 2019, an estimated 240,000 overseas Filipino workers are in Hong Kong.

First detected in Botswana in southern Africa, the Omicron variant has since cropped up in South Africa, Israel, Germany, Italy, Britain, and Hong Kong. (PNA)