MANILA – There is a big possibility of local transmission of the Omicron variant as new Covid-19 cases continue to rise, an infectious disease expert said Saturday.

The Omicron variant could be three to five times more transmissible than the Delta variant due to heavy mutations, Vaccine Expert Panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante said.

Experts say the rise in the number of cases means increased virus transmission and possible mutations.

Sa situation natin ngayon (In our current situation), with the enormous number of people being positive with the short duration of time, then I would say there is already community transmission of Omicron variant,” Solante said during a televised public briefing.

The country logged 26,458 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, pushing active cases to 102,017, the highest since 106,558 on Oct. 9, 2021.

Of the active cases, 94,007 are mild, 2,842 are moderate, 3,399 are asymptomatic, 1,462 are severe, and 307 are critical.

In a Viber message to reporters, Department of Health - Health Promotion Bureau Director Beverly Ho said the country’s experts "assume there is community transmission even if it is not officially declared by the World Health Organization and confirmed by the genome sequencing”.

Solante emphasized being infected with the Omicron variant and recovering from it does not guarantee lifetime protection against Covid-19.

“We know that kapag na-infect ka ng (once you’re infected with) Omicron variant, once you recover, you still have an antibody, and that’s why you are protected against the reinfection of Omicron variant. As long as there is a mutation, community transmission, you can always get Covid-19,” he said. (PNA)