(UPDATE) The Department of Health on Wednesday reported the Philippines' first two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, just as authorities kept the entire country under the second lowest pandemic restrictions.
The two cases, both international arrivals, were detected from the 48 samples sequenced on Tuesday, the DOH said. Both cases are isolated in a Bureau of Quarantine facility.
One is a returning Filipino who arrived from Japan on Dec. 1. He had symptoms of colds and cough upon arrival and is currently asymptomatic. The other case is a Nigerian national, also asymptomatic, who arrived in Manila on Nov. 30, the DOH said.
"The DOH is determining possible close contacts among co-passengers during the flights of these two cases," it said in a statement.
Several countries have reported Omicron cases including the Philippines' Southeast Asian neighbors.
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Ahead of the detection of Omicron, the Philippines had tightened its COVID-19 protocols to include stricter quarantine for international travelers, the postponement of its tourism reopening to foreigners, and the approval of booster shots to all fully vaccinated adults.
Health Sec. Francisco Duque III earlier said the arrival of Omicron in the Philippines was only a "matter of when" and not if. The WHO, citing preliminary studies, said the variant was more transmissible and could blunt protection from vaccines while not necessarily causing more severe disease.