As the Philippines again records thousands of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases daily, President Duterte on Tuesday, Jan. 4, pointed at the highly transmissible Omicron variant as the culprit for the decreased mobility of Filipinos.

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his regular public address on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (RTVM Screenshot)

The National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby provinces of Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan are now placed under alert level 3, restricting the movement of minors and unvaccinated individuals.

“If there is somebody to blame actually, it is the Omicron,” the President said during his first late-night public address of the new year.

Duterte explained that the government will only “get angry” if someone is “known” in the community for his or her refusal to get vaccinated.

The Chief Executive noted the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa before it spread in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

READ: Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal escalated to alert level 3

The contamination of Omicron is so “aggressive, very fast” that hospitals saw an immediate increase in COVID-19 cases, he said.

His statement blaming the Omicron variant came after the National Task Force Against COVID-19 approved the suspension of this year’s traslacion or the procession of the Black Nazarene and other related activities.

The religious festival is held in Manila in honor of the Black Nazarene every Jan. 9.

Duterte appealed to the Catholic Church “to forego and to cancel all physical gatherings including the procession and the celebration of mass in the church.”

The Philippines’ new surge of COVID-19 cases is believed to be fueled by the Omicron variant.

READ: Delta variant in Metro Manila to gradually ‘disappear’ as Omicron takes over — OCTA fellow

On Tuesday, the country logged 5,434 new cases, the highest in over two months or since Oct. 23.

Source: Manila Bulletin (