THE PHILIPPINES has detected its fourth case of the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant in a passenger who arrived from the United States, the Health department announced Monday.

A 38-year-old female arrived from the US on Dec. 10 via Philippine Airlines and was quarantined upon arrival, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said an online media briefing.

Three days later, she had throat itchiness and a cold. Specimen was collected on Dec. 14 and was reported positive a day after. She was then placed in an isolation facility and declared asymptomatic after 10 days. She is currently under home quarantine and is scheduled for retesting on Tuesday.

“Detected Omicron cases remain to be among international arrivals but its entry is inevitable,” said Mr. Vergeire. “We want to further delay its entry to ensure that local health systems are ready.”

The Department of Health (DoH) is coordinating with the Bureau of Quarantine and the Department of Transportation to monitor the passenger’s close contacts on the flight, she said.

She also assured the public that all passengers had undergone the required quarantine protocols and followed standard health procedures.

The negative impact of the new variant can be lowered by “vaccinating as fast as we can,” she added, since this will lessen the transmission of the disease.

She also noted that case increases can be prevented through immediate detection, isolation, and contact tracing.

Meanwhile, the second phase of the government’s national vaccination program had exceeded its seven million target by half a million, Cabinet Secretary and Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said in a statement on Monday.

The government is aiming to have 54 million fully vaccinated individuals by the end of the year. Latest data show there were 47.1 million who have received two doses.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., meanwhile, assured that there are enough vaccine supplies to achieve the government’s target to fully vaccinate 77 million Filipinos by the first quarter of 2022.

The DoH reported 318 coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the total to 2.84 million.

The death toll hit 51,211 after 11 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 255 to 2.78 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 9,579 active cases, 445 of which did not show symptoms, 3,644 were mild, 3,339 were moderate, 1,777 were severe and 374 were critical.

The agency said 99% of the reported cases occurred from Dec. 14 to 27. The top regions with cases in the past two weeks were Metro Manila with 130, Calabarzon with 51, and Central Luzon with 28.

It added that 82% of the reported deaths occurred in December, and 18% in October. DoH said 166 cases had been removed from the tally, which were reclassified as recoveries.

It added that five cases previously tagged as recoveries were relisted as deaths. Two laboratories did not operate on Dec. 25, while 26 failed to submit data. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan