MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday, June 3, announced the detection of two cases of the more contagious Omicron subvariant BA.5, which has been flagged by the World Health Organization (WHO) because it carries “additional mutations of concern.”
“Dalawang indibidwal mula sa Region III ang nagpositibo sa nasabing variant. Sa kasalukuyan ay unknown ang exposure ng mga ito, dahil maliban sa pagpunta sa election precincts nitong eleksiyon ay wala po silang travel history,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters.
(Two individuals from Region III tested positive for the said variant. As of now, their exposures are unknown, because aside from going to their polling precincts last elections, they had no travel history.)
Both experienced mild symptoms of the disease and have been tagged as recovered. They are fully vaccinated and have received their booster shots against the virus.
Aside from BA.5, the WHO also flagged BA.4 because of its “concerning mutations.” The country has also reported a case of BA.4.
Dr. Edsel Salvaña, technical adviser to the DOH, said that both BA.5 and BA.4 are 10% to 30% more transmissible than BA.2, which is the dominant subvariant of Omicron in the Philippines and the rest of the world.
So far, there is no indication that BA.4 or BA.5 are associated with new symptoms or more severe disease, but they can dodge antibodies from earlier Omicron infection.
Despite the detection of more infectious variants of Omicron, COVID-19 infections in the country remain low, though there was a slight uptick weeks ago. Health experts attributed the low cases to the country’s mandatory use of face masks. Vergeire reiterated that face masks will be the last go in terms of health protocols for the pandemic. – Rappler.com