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Philippines detects local transmission of Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1

The Philippines on Tuesday said it has detected local transmission of the Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1.

Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said three new cases of the subvariant were detected in the Western Visayas region.

At a press briefing, Vergeire said one of the three is a fully vaccinated returning overseas Filipino from the United States, while the remaining two are local cases.

Of the two local cases, one is fully vaccinated while the other is being verified, Vergeire said.

The Health undersecretary later said the cases were detected in Iloilo City.

“Ito pong latest sequencing result, dito po tayo nakapagtalaga nitong tatlo nating bago na subvariant na BA.2.12.1. And we have detected this in Iloilo City,” Vergeire said.

(We recorded the three new cases of the subvariant BA.2.12.1 in the latest sequencing result. And we have detected this in Iloilo City.)

This brings the total number of BA.2.12.1 cases in the Philippines to 17. 

Of these, 16 are local cases — two in the National Capital Region, 12 in Puerto Princesa City, and two others in Western Visayas.

One case is a ROF residing in Western Visayas, the DOH said.

Meanwhile, Vergeire said the 39 close contacts of the two cases in NCR have been placed under quarantine and all are asymptomatic.

“So we have a total of 39 close contacts for these two individuals from NCR, mga colleagues nila, mga officemate sila. Sila po ay nai-quarantine. Lahat po sila asymptomatic,” she said.

(So we have a total of 39 close contacts for these two individuals from NCR, their colleagues and officemates. They were placed under quarantine. They are all asymptomatic.)

“Wala na po tayong iba pang naiko-consider na close contacts nila because as soon as nag-positive po itong mga identified individuals… ‘yung mga close contacts were advised at once,” she added.

(We are not considering any more close contacts because as soon as these individuals tested positive, their close contacts were advised at once.)

No community transmission

At the briefing, Vergeire stressed that local transmission is not the same as community transmission.

"Hindi pa ho ito community transmission kung saan malawakan na ang pagkalat kung kaya’t hindi na matre-trace ang linkages ng bawat kaso," she said.

(This is not a community transmission where the infection is already so widespread that linkages cannot be traced anymore.)

She explained that a local transmission means the virus is contained.

“Kapag sinabi natin na local transmission, confined siya doon sa area. Hindi pangmalawakan. Compared to community transmission… huge clusters of infection ito,” Vergeire said.

(When we say local transmission, it is confined to the area. It’s not widespread. Compared to community transmission where there are huge clusters of infection.)

Vergeire said the DOH is working with local governments to strengthen the four-door strategy against COVID-19.

"Pinapaalala po namin sa ating publiko ang pagpapairal ng disiplina sa pagsunod sa minimum public health standards, lalo't higit dapat magpabakuna at tumanggap na ng booster shots upang manatiling protektado," she said.

(We are reminding the public to practice discipline in following minimum public health standards. We should get vaccinated and receive booster shots in order to remain protected.)

Vergeire also called on local government units to use RT-PCR tests instead of antigen tests.

“[W]e are recommending that local governments and our laboratories and all implementing units will be preparing ‘yung paggamit ng (the use of) RT-PCR over the antigen test,” she said.

“Tutal hindi naman tayo tinataasan pa ng mga kaso ngayon. Ang ginagawa natin active surveillance so that we can be able to detect further kung meron pang ibang transmission na ginagawa itong mga subvariants na ito,” she added.

(Our case count is not that high as of now. What we are doing is active surveillance so that we can be able to detect if there is any further  transmission from these subvariants.)

Meanwhile, Vergeire said the latest genome sequencing result also yielded four cases of the Omicron variant, one case of the Delta variant, and two cases with no lineages assigned. —KBK/KG, GMA News