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Philippines detects 5 more cases of Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 in Western Visayas —DOH

The Philippines has detected five additional cases of COVID-19's Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 in the Western Visayas region, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday. 

Health Promotion and Communication Service Director Dr. Beverly Ho announced this in a DOH briefing, noting that the new cases were found among three fully vaccinated returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) coming from the United States. They all came from the same household.

The Omicron subvariant was also detected in two fully vaccinated locals who are also residing in one household, Ho said.

“Ang lahat ng mga kasong ito ay nakatapos na po ng kanilang home isolation at [all of these cases have finished their home isolation and are] considered asymptomatic and recovered,” she said. 

Ho further pointed out that the two local cases had two close contacts, while the three ROFs had five.

“May total po tayong [we have a total of] seven close contacts. Ang lahat ng ito ay tapos na rin sa kanilang [all of them have finished their] isolation and are now tagged as recovered,” she said.

These five new cases of the Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 brought the total number of cases to 22. Eighteen of these were locally-acquired — two from the National Capital Region, 12 from Puerto Princesa in Palawan, and four from Western Visayas.

Meanwhile, the four infections were from ROFs residing in Western Visayas.

On May 17, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire confirmed that the country has also detected a local transmission of the Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1, with the new cases found in the Western Visayas region. 

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said the new sublineages BA 2.12 and BA 2.12.1 spreading in the United States led to 93% of its recent COVID-19 infections.

Health experts are still studying these Omicron sublineages in terms of transmissibility and if they can cause more severe disease, according to the DOH.

Initial data showed that their mutations are associated with higher transmissibility. However, there is currently no evidence that these sublineages cause more severe disease, the DOH added.

Omicron BA.4

On the other hand, the Health department reported that there were no additional Omicron BA.4 cases detected in the country yet aside from one – an ROF who flew in from the Middle East earlier this month was found to be infected with the specific subvariant.

“Na-complete na po [niya] ang quarantine and is now currently asymptomatic and tagged as recovered,” Ho said.

The Filipino detected with the BA.4 subvariant, however, had 33 contacts on the plane and their vaccination status and testing details are now being verified by authorities.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control sees Omicron BA.4 as a variant of concern, so it can either spread faster or cause worse illness, the DOH previously said. —KG/KBK, GMA News