PH detects 14 cases of new Omicron subvariant




The Manila Times


THE Philippines has detected 14 cases of the BA2.12.1 sublineage of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the Department of Health (DoH) said on Friday. According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the first two cases were detected from the National Capital Region on April 21. Both cases had been boosted and only had mild symptoms and undertook home isolation from April 21 to 28. They were now tagged as asymptomatic and have since recovered. Their 39 close contacts had also been identified and were asymptomatic, but their testing, quarantine and vaccination status are being verified. The remaining cases came from a mini-cruise line in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, where 11 foreigners and a local tested positive on April 29. They were supposed to go on a diving trip to Tubbataha Reef, but one of the foreign nationals had nasal congestion and tested positive for the antigen test. A total of 15 individuals tested positive for Covid-19, and 11 had the variant. Vergeire said that the BA2.12.1 subvariant is different from the BA2.12 sublineage that was detected in a 52-year-old Finnish woman two weeks ago. “May mga unique mutations ang mga sublineage na ‘yan, but in totality, itong dalawang ito parehong more transmissible than the Omicron variant at pareho silang may (There are unique mutations in these sublineages, but in totality, these two are more transmissible than the Omicron variant and they both have) immune escape based on studies that are coming out,” Vergeire told reporters in a news conference. She added that the mild symptom presentation of all subvariant cases highlights the importance of getting vaccinated and having their first booster shot. Infectious disease expert and DoH Technical Advisory Group member Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana said that the first booster dose gives strong protection against variants such as Delta and Omicron as opposed to the primary series of vaccines. The second booster dose only gives a small increase in protection among healthy individuals. “‘Yung dagdag na efficacy ng (The additional efficacy of the) second booster or fourth dose is not as big as the additional protection you get from the two doses and one booster . ... Beyond that, nakikita lang natin ‘yung incremental benefit sa elderly and sa (we are seeing the incremental benefit to the elderly and the) immunocompromised,” Salvana said. Aside from the subvariant cases, 35 had the regular Omicron variant, while two had the Delta variant and 12 had no assigned lineages in the sequencing made by the Philippine Genome Center last week. In the same briefing, Vergeire also said that the country’s national Covid-19 cases continue to decline and have reached the lowest recorded average prior to the Omicron surge of December 18 to 24 last year. On average, the country reported 146 cases per day during the week of May 6 to 12, which is now 23 percent lower than the 189 cases reported on April 29 to May 5, and is now lower than the 254 cases reported prior to the surge. Hospitalization and intensive care unit rate also remained under low risk with 17 percent utilization rate despite available Covid-19 beds increasing by 0.25 percent or 18 beds and admissions increased by 3 percent or 128 cases.