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'Stealth Omicron' detected, predominant in most Philippine regions —DOH

The Philippines has detected the BA.1 and the BA.2 or the Stealth Omicron, two sub-lineages of the more transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, the Department of Health (DOH) said Tuesday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said BA.1 is most common in returning overseas Filipinos and in Region V while the BA.2 is most common in local cases in every region.

“Sa ngayon kailangan natin maipaalala at tandaan ang ating mga kababayan, walang nakitang clinical difference sa BA.1 at BA.2,” Vergeire said in a briefing.

“Kinakailangan pa rin po ng masusing pag-aaral dahil limitado pa rin ang ating mga obserbasyon na nakukuha dito,” she added. 

(For now we need to tell the public that experts have yet to see clinical difference between BA.1 and BA.2. There is a need for further study because data involving this are still limited.)

Foreign scientists have dubbed BA. 2 the "Stealth Omicron" because it has genetic traits that make it more difficult to identify using standard RT-PCR testing.

Since it is difficult to identify, experts fear it may be spreading less noticeably around the world.

At present, BA.2 has been detected in at least 49 countries and 17 US states.

“Habang kinikilala ang BA.1 bilang dominanteng sub-lineage internationally, dumadami na rin po ang na de-detect na BA.2 sa iba’t ibang bansa,”  Vergeire said.

(While the BA.1 is known as the dominant sub-lineage internationally, the number of BA.2 cases detected in various countries is increasing.)

Vergeire previously said the World Health Organization (WHO) and other experts are still studying the BA.2.

“Based on their initial findings and based on observing patients… wala naman masyadong difference with the Omicron as to the severity of illness,” she said.

The Philippines has detected a total of 535 Omicron cases.

Omicron dominant in NCR

Meanwhile, Vergeire said the Omicron variant may now be considered the predominant variant in the National Capital Region and other regions due to its increasing cases.

Vergeire said Omicron samples increased from 1.30% to 98.9% in January.

“Makikita sa graph ang mag-purple bars na biglang tumaas ang Omicron variant. Pinapakita natin na mula sa samples na pinakamataas na ang Omicron variant sa ating bansa,” she said.

(We can see that cases of the Omicron variant increased from the samples, that it is now the highest in the country.)

According to Vergeire, it seems the NCR has reached the peak in the number of COVID-19 cases.

She said cases in NCR have decreased to 7,000 from the 18,000 cases recorded in the previous weeks.

Vergeire said hospital admissions and the positivity rate have also been declining.

“We think ‘yung pinakamataas na numero ay nagkaroon na dito sa (we have reached the peak in the number of COVID-19 cases here in the) National Capital Region but this is not something for our citizens to be complacent about,” she said.

“Ang dali-dali pong bumalik na tumaas ulit ang mga kaso sa isang lugar kung tayo ay magpapabaya, kung tayo ay hindi na gagamit ng ating mga mask (The cases will rise again if we will not follow the health protocols, if we will not properly use our mask),” she added.

However, she also said that daily testing this week decreased by 14%.

The Philippines on Monday logged 24,938 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the active tally to 262,997.  —KBK/AOL, GMA News