MANILA – The government assured it is prepared for the entry of the more transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, the Department of Health (DOH) said Saturday.

In a Laging Handa briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire admitted the new variant has a high chance of entering the Philippines.

“From the start, hindi natin sasabihin definitely na hindi makakapasok. Ang pinag-uusapan natin diyan ay kung kailan (From the start, we said we cannot definitely say that it won't be able to enter. The question here is when it will enter)," she said.

"So the chances are there. Malakas po ang tiyansa na maaring makapasok dito sa atin at tayo naman po ay nagpre-prepare (there's a big chance it will get here and we are preparing)” she added.

Vergeire reminded the public to get vaccinated and continue observing health and safety protocols, regardless of the variant.

As of this posting, no case of Omicron had been detected in the Philippines yet based on the result of the whole genome sequencing released December 9.

"[T]there was no sample positive for the Omicron variant. Na-isama po natin dito iyong isang arrival from South Africa kung saan lumabas po iyong sequencing result na ito po ay isang variant na B.1.1.203. Hindi po siya Omicron. Hindi rin po siya iyong mga variant na binabantayan natin dito sa ating bansa (We already included those who arrived from South Africa. The results included one variant the B.1.1.203. It’s not Omicron nor one of the variants that we are monitoring)," Vergeire said.

She also reported that the five returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) from South Africa who were earlier tagged as missing have been located.

They yielded negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test results but will undergo retests.

Two unlocated ROFs from South Africa, meanwhile, were reportedly from Regions 4-B and 10 and had negative Covid-19 test results upon arrival.

"[D]umating po sila pareho ng November 22. So hanggang sa ngayon, our local governments are still locating these two passengers (They both arrived on November 22. So until now our local governments are still locating these two passengers)," Vergeire said.

Vergeire assured the government closely monitors the entry of all foreigners and Filipinos. (PNA)