1st Omicron BA.2.12 case didn’t infect others – DOH
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — A foreign guest of a Baguio university was found positive for the new coronavirus subvariant Omicron BA.2.12, but none of her hosts had been infected, the Department of Health (DOH) announced on Wednesday.
The 52-year-old woman from Finland traveled to Baguio to lecture on digital loom weaving in March, Karen Lonogan, an epidemiology nurse of the DOH in the Cordillera region, told a press briefing.
The World Health Organization has not declared BA.2.12 a variant of interest or a variant of concern.
“Scientists are still characterizing these Omicron sublineages in terms of transmissibility and if they can cause more severe disease,” the DOH said.
“Preliminary data have shown that their mutations are associated with higher transmissibility. However, there is currently no evidence that these sublineages cause more severe disease,” it added.
The Finnish woman sought medical care for another ailment, was tested for COVID-19 and found positive for the coronavirus.
It was only this week, after sequencing of sample specimen taken from her were examined, that it was confirmed she had the Omicron subvariant, Lonogan said.
According to Lonogan, this is the first BA.2.12 case in this part of the country.
But the DOH said it was the first such case not only in the Cordilleras but in the country. It was among the 132 samples in the latest genome sequencing run, the DOH said. It said Omicron was still the dominant variant, comprising 53 percent of total samples that came out positive.
There were four cases positive for Delta, which all came from the Davao region. The remaining 45 had no assigned lineage.
According to the DOH in Manila, only two of the nine individuals who had close interaction with the Finnish woman were tested for COVID-19 and they were both negative for the virus.
It said all nine were asymptomatic.
It was not clear why only two of them were tested during contact tracing.
The Finnish visitor did not have to go through isolation upon arrival because she was fully vaccinated and was asymptomatic when she entered the country, the DOH said.
She went to a university in Quezon City and then to Baguio City to conduct seminars.
She started showing mild COVID-like symptoms, such as headache and sore throat, nine days after her arrival and was confirmed to have the virus the next day.
The foreigner left the country for Finland on April 21 after a seven-day isolation and recovery, the DOH said.
The new Omicron sublineage is being monitored in the United States and is blamed for about 10 percent of COVID-19 infections in South Korea.
The Cordillera has so far recorded 1,449 COVID-19 variant cases, dominated recently by Omicron (460), which has displaced Delta (586), Alpha (307), Beta (91) and five patients who acquired P.3, classified as a variant under monitoring.
Throughout the highland region, hospitals are treating only 10 active COVID-19 cases out of the total of 118,119 since the pandemic struck in 2020, said Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, the DOH Cordillera assistant director and spokesperson.
Four of them were recorded in Baguio, she said.
The City of Pines has lifted all restrictions on leisure travel and has been receiving a daily average of 20,000 visitors. This number soars to 50,000 during weekends.
Baguio has the best vaccination performance in the Cordillera region, which has achieved 78.53 percent of its 2022 target—1,163,640 fully vaccinated adults out of 1,481,793—Pangilinan said.
According to the city health services office, 286,529 adults, more than the target of 281,000, have been fully vaccinated as of April 26, while 35,098 teens age 12 to 17 years old have completed their inoculations. The city has fully vaccinated 11,530 children age 5 to 11.
The neighboring provinces of Benguet and Ifugao have yet to vaccinate 70 percent of their residents.
Benguet has fully inoculated 60.31 percent of its target adults (238,000 of 394,649) while Ifugao completed the jabs on 53.10 percent of its target (91,395 of 172,134).
—WITH A REPORT FROM KATHLEEN DE VILLA
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