A new sublineage of Omicron, BA.2.12.1, has entered the Philippines after it was detected in 11 foreigners and three Filipinos who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Based on the results of the latest genome sequencing run, 14 individuals contracted the BA.2.12.1 subvariant of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Of the number, two were Metro Manila residents, 12 were foreign tourists and one was a local resident of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan province.
This new subvariant is a different COVID-19 mutation from the BA.2.12 detected from a Finnish visitor who went to Quezon City and Baguio City to conduct seminars.
In a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the two individuals from Metro Manila were the country’s first two cases of BA.2.12.1. She said they both went on home isolation from April 21 to April 28 and have since recovered after experiencing mild symptoms.
They had 39 close contacts found to be asymptomatic. However, their vaccination status and confirmatory test results have yet to be verified, according to Vergeire.
The emerging Omicron subvariant was later found in the same month in 15 individuals, 14 of whom were foreigners, in Puerto Princesa. They were part of a group aboard a “mini cruise line” that had 18 Filipino crew members for a diving trip on April 23 at the Tubbataha Reefs, Vergeire said.“Three days after, one foreigner experienced nasal congestion. He underwent antigen testing and it came out positive. The incident was immediately reported and the cruise ship was advised to return to the Puerto Princesa port for immediate management,” Vergeire said on Friday.
The 15 confirmed individuals are now asymptomatic and had been discharged from isolation facilities. All their 28 close contacts were also found negative for COVID-19, according to the health official.
The World Health Organization has not yet classified Omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1 and BA.2.12 as variants of concern or variants of interest. But initial findings show that it is more transmissible than the original Omicron variant BA.1.1.529.
According to the Department of Health, both sublineages have been detected in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada with a 23-percent to 27-percent “growth advantage” over the so-called “stealth” subvariant BA.2, which became the dominant COVID-19 variant globally.