Seven additional cases of the COVID-19 Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16 or “Arcturus” were detected in the country, bringing the total caseload to 11.
Based on the Department of Health’s latest COVID-19 biosurveillance report, two new Arcturus cases were identified in Central Luzon and another two in the Western Visayas. The Bicol Region, Mimaropa, and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) have one case each.
The data was based on the samples sequenced by the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) Main and Visayas released last May 9 to May 11, 2023.
The XBB.1.16 is tagged as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO), and a “variant under monitoring” by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said it was likely local transmission of Arcturus was taking place in the Philippines, considering that there was “no linkage” in the recently detected cases.
Despite this, Vergeire said the public should not worry about local transmission as long as they adhere to health protocols such as wearing face masks as needed, and getting vaccinated and boosted.
Aside from the Arcturus, the DOH said that of the recent 137 samples sequenced, 33 were cases of XBB.1.9.1; 13 were XBB.1.5; eight were XBB.1.9.2; and 25 were other Omicron XBB sublineages.
There were also 36 Omicron BA.2.3.20, seven XBC, and two BA.2.75 cases detected.
Six other cases, meanwhile, had “no assigned lineage,” according to DOH. — DVM, GMA Integrated News