Duque: Omicron to reach PH, only a matter of when

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 29) — It's only a matter of time before the Omicron variant reaches the country, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday.

"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. So, talagang yan po, papasok yan just as we have experienced with Alpha, Beta, Delta among the more compelling variants of concern," Duque replied when he was asked by President Rodrigo Duterte if there was a possibility that the Omicron variant would "visit" the country.

[Translation: It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. So, that will really come in just as we have experienced with Alpha, Beta, Delta among the more compelling variants of concern.]

He said it is important to strengthen the country's PDITR strategy — referring to Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment, and Reintegration.

Duque added there are three major interventions that could be done to keep defenses strong, first of which would be the enforcement of compliance to minimum public health standards including the continued wearing of face masks and even face shields.

He said he would still recommend wearing face shields in closed spaces, in crowded areas and in close contact settings.

READ: Return of face shield rule possible amid fears over Omicron variant Galvez 

"We need to really widen and increase the vaccination coverage to reach population protection," said Duque, listing it as the second major intervention.

Lastly, he called for the strengthening of the health system's capacity.

"It is important that we continue to strengthen and prepare the health system's capacity for the worst-case scenario in case there's going to be a sustained high community transmission on account of this possible Omicron variant entering our country," he said.

RELATED: PH 'scaling up' health care capacity amid Omicron threat 

According to officials, no case of the Omicron variant has been detected in the Philippines so far. However, the Philippines has expanded its "red list" of countries amid the threat.