Omicron variant

Returning seafarer in Iligan City tests positive for Omicron variant

Froilan Gallardo
Returning seafarer in Iligan City tests positive for Omicron variant

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

(1st UPDATE) The unvaccinated 40-year-old seafarer traveled from Kenya to Cebu City, and from Misamis Oriental to Iligan City

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has documented a case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in Mindanao and quarantined an entire family in Iligan City as a precautionary measure.

Health officials said the case is a returning overseas worker, an unvaccinated 40-year-old seafarer who traveled from Kenya. He returned to Iligan City on December 30.

(Editor’s Note: We previously reported that the returning seafarer is the first Omicron case in Mindanao. This has been corrected following the DOH’s clarification.)

While it was the first known Omicron case in Mindanao, the DOH clarified that this could not be considered as Mindanao’s first Omicron case as it involved a returning overseas Filipino.

“Since this is an ROF, po we do not count them under any region. Thus, there is still no case for Region 10 since wala pang local case doon there is no local case there yet),” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

Vergeire noted that the seafarer arrived on December 16 and completed isolation on December 30.

Dr. Jasper Kent Ola, head of the Department of Health’s Regional Epidemiology, Surveillance and Disaster Response Unit (DOH-RESDRU) in Northern Mindanao, said that the man arrived in the country via a Qatar Airways flight to Cebu City where he was placed in isolation and given a COVID-19 test before being allowed to travel to Iligan.

From Cebu, he took a flight to the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental, between the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.

The seafarer had close contact with four of his family members in Barangay del Carmen, Iligan City.

“We have isolated the family and informed them that they would have to undergo swab tests,” Ola told reporters during a press briefing on Friday, January 7.

Ola said the seafarer was already asymptomatic when he was certified recovered by health authorities in Cebu where was quarantined in a hotel starting on December 16.

Samples were taken from the seafarer, who was coughing and had a fever, and he was subsequently transferred to another hotel in Cebu where he stayed since December 23.

“After he recovered, the seafarer underwent another swab test, and then he was tagged as recovered and asymptomatic,” Ola said.

Late this week, the Philippine Genome Center informed health officials in Iligan City and Northern Mindanao that the seafarer tested positive for the Omicron variant. 

Dr. Jose Llacuna Jr., DOH director for Northern Mindanao, said another traveler bound for Northern Mindanao was also found with the Omicron variant but she was in isolation in Makati City.

Llacuna said the patient, a 20-year-old female college student, traveled from Las Vegas.

He said the student arrived in Manila aboard an All Nippon Airways plane on December 27 after a brief stopover in Osaka, Japan.

“Fortunately, she was not able to board her flight to Cagayan de Oro. She is still in Manila right now,” Llacuna said, adding the young lady was supposed to go home to celebrate and welcome the new year with her family. –Rappler.com

Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.