The Philippines detected a total of 14 cases of the Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Palawan, the Department of Health (DOH) reported Friday.
During a media briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said two cases were detected in the NCR while 12 were detected in Puerto Princesa City, of which 11 are foreigners.
Vergeire said the two cases in the NCR have received their booster shots and experienced mild symptoms.
She said they are now tagged as recovered after completing home isolation.
They had a total of 39 close contacts who are currently asymptomatic.
“We are determining their vaccination and quarantine status,” Vergeire said.
The Philippines in April detected its first case of Omicron BA.2.12—a Finnish traveler—in Baguio City.
“In totality, the two are both more transmissible than the original Omicron variant and both have the possibility of an immune escape based on… the studies that are coming out,” Vergeire said.
Vergeire said both subvariants have been found in the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada.
Meanwhile, Vergeire said the NCR may see a higher number of COVID-19 hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions if an immune-escaping and highly transmissible variant emerges.
Metro Manila could record 1,124 to 1,954 coronavirus ICU patients by July 31 if such a variant causes widespread infection and if the booster shot rate is at 500,000 doses per month, Vergeire said.
She cited projections by the Australian Tuberculosis Modeling Network Team.
ICU admissions during the Delta variant-driven surge last year peaked at 1,272, Vergeire said.
“Our latest projections show the importance of minimum public health standards and the fast-tracking of vaccination, not just of booster doses but also of primary series,” Vergeire told reporters.
“We need these to prevent further transmission and to mitigate the potential risk if there will be new variants of concern,” she said.
Also on Friday, the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 said the Philippine government is set to donate about 3 million COVID-19 vaccines to other countries.
During the Laging Handa briefing, NTF special adviser Ted Herbosa said he was initially informed that Sputnik V vaccines will be donated to countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I think Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar are the target countries to receive it because they do not have enough vaccines,” he said.
In April, Vergeire said the government is already coordinating with Myanmar and Papua New Guinea to finalize arrangements for the donation.
Herbosa said about 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the COVAX facility expired in various regions.
“But COVAX vowed to replace these. So we’re just waiting for the replacement because there are only donations,” he said.