Philippines detects omicron BA.2.12.1 in Metro Manila, Puerto Princesa

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – The Philippines has detected 14 omicron BA.2.12.1 cases in Metro Manila and Puerto Princesa, the Department of Health said Friday.

Two local cases of the highly transmissible omicron subvariant found in Metro Manila have completed home isolation and are now asymptomatic, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

Both were fully vaccinated individuals with booster shots who had no international travel history, the DOH said in a statement.

The two patients have a total of 39 close contacts, Vergeire said. The DOH is looking into the vaccination status and quarantine and testing information of these close contacts, she added.

The DOH has also detected 12 cases of the omicron subvariant in Puerto Princesa, of which 11 were foreign tourists and one was a local individual, Vergeire said.

The cases came from a tourist cluster where 14 foreigners and 1 local tested positive for COVID-19 last April 29.

Five of the 15 cases experienced mild symptoms, according to Vergeire. All were asymptomatic and have since recovered, she said. Twenty-eight close contacts have tested negative for COVID-19 while their health and vaccination status are being verified, Vergeire added.

The BA.2.12.1, a sublineage of BA.2, has been detected in 23 countries. It comprises majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

The Philippines last month detected BA.2.12 in a Finnish woman who visited Baguio City and Quezon City and has since recovered and returned to her home country.

“Itong dalawang ‘to pareho silang more transmissible than the original omicron variant tsaka pareho silang may possibility ng immune escape,” Vergeire said.

(These 2 are more transmissible than the original omicron variant and they both have the possibility of immune escape.)

The country’s surveillance systems are “able to detect new cases and characterize their lineage,” the DOH said in a statement.

“Should a variant of concern (VOC) enter the country, expert projections indicate a possible rise and peak in COVID-19 cases, especially with the currently low booster coverage among the eligible population,” it said.

“Our vaccines are proven to be safe and effective, which helps keep healthcare utilization low and the economy reopening under Alert Level 1. Everyone eligible for a booster shot is highly encouraged to get the jab done, as immunity is proven to wane over time.”

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