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Philippines detects 618 new Omicron cases, including 497 local

The Philippines has detected 618 more cases of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, of which 497 are local cases and 121 are returning Overseas Filipinos.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), this brought the total confirmed Omicron cases in the country to 1,153.

Of the local cases, 238 have indicated addresses in the National Capital Region, 71 in Calabarzon, 30 each in Ilocos Region and Western Visayas, 28 in Eastern Visayas, 27 in Central Luzon, 20 in Central Visayas, 19 in Cagayan Valley,

Meanwhile, 13 have addresses in the Cordillera Administrative Region, 10 in Davao Region, six in SOCCSKSARGEN, two each in the Bicol Region and Mimaropa, and one in Northern Mindanao.

The DOH said 13 cases are still active.

A total of five individuals with Omicron have passed away, according to the DOH.

The latest run sequenced 677 samples, of these 91.29% was Omicron.

'Stealth Omicron'

Meanwhile, the DOH said the majority of the Omicron cases in the latest batch were the BA.2 or the Stealth Omicron.

The earliest detection of the Stealth Omicron was on December 2021, it said.

On Wednesday, the DOH announced that the Philippines has detected the BA.1 and the BA.2, both of which are sublineages of the Omicron variant.

“Data gathered by the DOH, UP-PGC, and UP-NIH showed that there is no significant difference in BA.1 and BA.2 characteristics in terms of transmissibility or severity of disease,” it said.

The DOH said it will continue to investigate why the BA.2 became more prevalent than the BA.1.

“But so far the detection of BA.2 does not entail any significant change in the COVID-19 response,” it said.

At the Laging Handa briefing, an official of the Philippine Genome Center said the prevalence of the BA.2 shows that the government was successful in preventing the transmission of the illness from returning Filipinos.

“One is that we are, the government has been… effective in preventing onward transmission of the international travelers, kasi ‘yung international travelers po natin… marami po sa kanila BA.1,” PGC Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma said.

“Ito po ‘yung global prevalent sub-lineage,” she added.

Saloma said starting January, most of the cases detected were Omicron, particularly in NCR. She however said just because other regions have yet to detect the variant does not mean they have no Omicron cases.

“Yung ibang rehiyon na wala pa tayong nade-detect, hindi naman po nagsaabi na hindi naman po nagpapahiwatig na wala po tayong Omicron doon,” she said.

“Except that they were not able to send samples to us because of problems in transportation or some other,” she added.

Delta variant

Meanwhile, the country also detected 35 additional cases of the Delta variant, bringing the total to 8,647.

“The Department urges the public to complete their primary series of vaccines and boosters, especially those who are most vulnerable to the virus such as the elderly, the young, and the sick,” the DOH said.

“The vaccines provided by the government are proven to be safe and effective in preventing hospitalization, even death caused by severe and critical symptoms,” it added.

The government has blamed Omicron for the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, prompting it to put many highly urbanized areas, including the National Capital Region, under Alert Level 3, which imposes restrictions on unvaccinated individuals and limits capacities in businesses.

Risk level

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk level related to the Omicron variant remains very high.

The WHO said that of samples collected in the last 30 days that have been sequenced and uploaded to the GISAID global science initiative, Omicron accounted for 89.1 percent.

Delta — previously the world's dominant variant — now makes up 10.7 percent. —KBK, GMA News