Philippines detects 81 Omicron XBB subvariant, 193 XBC variant cases
The Philippines has detected 81 cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron XBB subvariant and 193 cases of the XBC variant, the Department of Health (DOH) announced Tuesday.
At a press briefing, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the 81 cases of XBB were detected in Western Visayas and Davao Region.
Seventy of these cases have already recovered, eight are still undergoing isolation, while the status of the three others are still being verified.
None of them died, according to Vergeire.
Citing preliminary studies, DOH earlier said that the XBB sublineage “shows higher immune evasion ability than BA.5.” It is also under the Omicron subvariants under monitoring by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with BA.5, BA.2.75, BJ.1, BA.4.6, and BA.2.3.20.
Vergeire explained that the Omicron XBB subvariant has been causing the COVID-19 spikes in Singapore and other countries.
“Mula po sa Singapore Ministry of Health, wala pa pong sapat na ebidensya ang magpapatunay na nagdudulot ng mas malubhang sakit ang panibagong subvariant na ito,” she said.
(According to the Singapore Ministry of Health, there is not yet enough evidence to prove that this new subvariant could cause more serious disease.)
Citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she added that the XBB could result in symptoms similar to that caused by other original COVID-19 variants such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, body ache, headaches, loss of taste and smell, sore throat, runny nose, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Meanwhile, the country also recorded 193 cases of the XBC variant in 11 regions—-Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Caraga, Bangsamoro Region, and the National Capital Region (NCR).
Of this number, five people died, Vergeire said.
There were 176 infected individuals also recovered, three are still undergoing isolation, while the outcomes of others are still being identified.
Vergeire said the XBC is a “variant under monitoring and investigation” as classified by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency.
“Sinasabi na recombinant ng Delta at BA.2 variant ang XBC variant. Katulad ng XBB variant, hindi pa kumpleto ang ebidensya at walang ebidensya pa rin na tumutukoy na mas malubhang sakit ang maidudulot nito,” she added.
(The XBC variant is said to be a recombinant of the Delta and BA.2 variants. Like the XBB variant, the evidence is incomplete and there is still no evidence showing that it could cause more serious disease.)
She also said the DOH is still verifying if these cases of the XBB and XBC were detected among local or foreign travelers.
“Sa ngayon, ayaw pa nating makapag-deklara kung ito ay community transmission kasi wala pa tayong sapat na ebidensya,” she said.
(Right now, we don't want to declare that there is already a community transmission because we don't have enough evidence yet.)
“What we can say right now, because there are this number of XBB and XBC, it's part of the locally transmitted variants already in the country,” she added.
Vergeire said the DOH, along with other government agencies, continues to implement the four-door strategy against COVID-19.
The country recorded 15,314 new COVID-19 infections from October 10 to 16, 2022—a 7% higher than the 14,333 cases logged from the previous week.
Despite the detection of the XBB subvariant and XBC variant, Vergeire said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases does not yet see any indications yet to tighten its border restrictions anew from travelers.
“Sa ngayon, wala hong indikasyon para tayo ay maghigpit. Katulad ng lagi nating sinasabi, the life cycle of a virus, kasama na po diyan ‘yung mutations and the production of new variants,” she said.
(Right now, there is no indication for us to tighten up the borders. The life cycle of a virus includes mutations and the production of new variants.)
She emphasized that the country already has “safeguards” considering the high number of Filipinos fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the behavior of wearing of face masks, and that healthcare systems are prepared in case there will be an increase in infections.
“Hindi po tayo pwedeng nagbubukas at nagsasara, nagbubukas, nagsasara ng ating mga borders ngayong panahon at sitwasyon natin ngayon two years after or going through this pandemic. Kailangan, we should all live with the virus at marunong tayo mag-adapt kung ano man ang sitwasyon,” Vergeire added.
(We can't open and close our borders in this time and situation two years after or going through this pandemic. We should all live with the virus and know how to adapt no matter what the situation is.)
Currently, 73.4 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against and 20.3 million of them have received their first booster dose.
In February, the IATF already relaxed the travel restrictions, allowing the entry of foreigners in the Philippines for business and tourism purposes under certain conditions.
Among the requirements for foreign nationals before entering the country is full vaccination against COVID-19, except for minors below 12 years old traveling with their fully vaccinated foreign parents. — RSJ, GMA News