Last October, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has promised that this year’s Christmas season will be better compared to last year since it appeared at that time that the COVID-19 pandemic is finally under control. And honestly, that optimism seemed to be grounded on reality as the country steadily went ahead with its vaccination campaign. As the number of active cases steadily declined, the Philippine government eventually loosened restrictions – lifting the face shield requirement, allowing minors to go out, letting more businesses operate with more people on duty, etc.

However, the rise of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has dampened the optimism that governments across the world has tried hard to project for their citizens. First detected in African nations, the latest version of the novel coronavirus has now been detected in around 100 countries. It is now being blamed for causing another surge in COVID-19 cases in countries like France, South Korea, and the United States.

The Philippines so far has recorded just three cases of the omicron variant from – all travelers from foreign countries. More importantly, there is no local transmission yet according to the National Vaccination Operations Center. However, this is not totally reassuring given that the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center does not have the capability to determine the variant of each COVID-19 case reported.

Philippines omicron surge
The COVID-19 situation in the Philippines has stopped improving in the past two weeks.
(Credits: Department of Health)

And also, there are telltale signs that the COVID-19 situation in the country is no longer improving:

1) As of December 26, the daily positivity rate is already back to 2.0% – the highest in almost a month.

2) More than 400 additional COVID-19 cases for two straight days now although the total number of active cases is still at 9,522.

3) The number of tests being conducted is now down to 21,000.
4) Octa Research has reclassified Metro Manila to “very low risk” to “low risk” of COVID-19 transmission.
5) Several laboratories are not able to submit reports, presumably because of the holidays and as an effect of super typhoon “Odette.”
There are two other reasons which should make Filipinos uneasy about the weeks and months ahead: the mass gatherings that are happening due to the Christmas and New Year, and the difficulty of implementing social distancing in evacuation centers in areas affected by super typhoon “Odette.”

It is a must for Filipinos to remain vigilant and avoid complacency.

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