Omicron sublineage confirmed in PH
MANILA, Philippines — A sublineage of the coronavirus variant Omicron, which scientists abroad have found to be spreading across the globe, has been detected in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) had identified the sublineage or subvariant BA.2 as well as BA.1, the dominant Omicron variant, from samples of infected individuals across the country.
Vergeire explained that “there’s no significant difference in the clinical presentation of BA.1 and BA.2.”
But she said “We need more thorough studies because our observations and information are limited.”
Health authorities in Europe have noted the spread of what they called the “stealth” subvariant BA.2 in more than 40 countries, including 17 states in the United States.
French epidemiologist Antoine Flahault, as quoted by Agence France-Presse, reported that the “subvariant… has been circulating to a great extent in Asia.”
Vergeire also confirmed that “Our COVID-19 cases continue to soar because of the Omicron variant.”
She cited PGC data showing that 98.9 percent of all samples this month were identified to be that of Omicron. It was a huge leap from 1.3 percent in November last year, she said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) country representative, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, warned two weeks ago that Omicron would replace Delta as the predominant variant in the country.
Vergeire further noted that, at 10,198, the average daily cases last week (Jan. 16 to 22) were almost double the average daily cases of 5,926 during the peak of the Delta variant in September last year.
“But we should not panic,” she said, noting that only 18 percent of the new COVID-19 cases were severe or critical, down from 36 percent during the Delta surge.
Most of the Omicron cases experienced mild to moderate symptoms, Vergeire said, while “some of [them] did not have any symptom at all.”
She cited the ongoing vaccination drive as the reason why majority of the infected were able to recover quickly after completing home quarantine.
The DOH on Tuesday logged 17,677 new infections, bringing the total cases since the pandemic began to 3,459,646.
Active cases were at 247,451, of which 235,181 were mild, 7,464 were asymptomatic, 2,996 were moderate, 1,502 were severe; and 308 were critical.
The positivity rate, or the percentage of individuals testing positive, was now at 37.2 percent, based on 43,874 who were tested on Sunday.
This was the country’s lowest positivity rate since Jan. 3, but still about seven times more than the WHO’s standard of below 5 percent to indicate COVID-19 transmission is under control.
There were 33,144 new recoveries, which brought the total number of survivors to 3,158,597. But the DOH recorded 79 fatalities which pushed the death toll to 53,598.
In terms of health-care utilization, 50 percent of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and 53 percent each of isolation and ward beds nationwide were currently in use, together with 25 percent of the country’s ventilators.
The Calabarzon region had the most number of cases in Tuesday’s bulletin at 2,629, followed by Metro Manila (2,570) and Central Luzon (2,266). All but six of its laboratories were able to forward their latest data to the COVID-19 Document Repository System, the DOH said. INQ
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