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Philippines detects 14 cases of 'more transmissible' Omicron subvariant BQ.1

Omicron BQ.1, a sublineage of the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant, has been detected in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday, citing results of the latest genome sequencing.

According to the DOH, 14 cases of BQ.1 have been detected based on the latest genome sequencing of UP-Philippine Genome Center, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and San Lazaro Hospital from October 28 to November 18.

Of the 14 cases, 13 were local cases from the Cordillera Administrative Region, Regions 1, 4A, 7, and National Capital Region (NCR), the DOH said.

The DOH has yet to confirm if the remaining case is a returning overseas Filipino (ROF).

At the press briefing, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said BQ.1 is “more transmissible and highly immune evasive” compared to other Omicron subvariants.

“What we know so far from this BQ.1, it is more transmissible and also highly immune evasive compared to the other subvariants of Omicron,” she said.

“Pero we have always reiterated to everybody that it is time for us that our mindset would be that yes, we are aware that there are these variant and subvariant being detected in the country but we should also be aware whatever variants and subvariants may be detected, our protocols for us to get direction and also to protect our families are all the same,” she said.

Vergeire reminded the public to comply with the minimum public health protocols and get vaccinated against these COVID-19 variants and subvariants detected.

“All these subvariants being published or nadetect natin through our sequencing results pareho pa rin ang ating protection na kailangan, it should always be our minimum public health standards pati na rin po ang pagbabakuna tayo,” Vergeire said.

“We continuously remind our public that is why, that is also the reason we are not so much not welling on informing and disseminating this kind of information though in the spirit of transparency also we posted in our website," she added.

“But that’s should not be the focus of our citizens now, the focus should be how we get ourselves protected and that is vaccination and following our minimum public health standards,” she said.

US health regulators on Friday estimated that BQ.1 and closely related BQ.1.1 accounted for 16.6% of coronavirus variants in the country, nearly doubling from last week, while Europe expects them to become the dominant variants in a month.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the variants are likely to drive up cases in the coming weeks to months in the European region. —KBK/RSJ, GMA Integrated News