The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday said it has detected local transmission of the COVID-19 Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 as three more cases have been recorded, bringing the total cases to 17.
Two local cases and one returning Filipino with the subvariant were found in Western Visayas, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
“This is not community transmission yet, wherein infection has spread widely, and we can’t trace the lineage of the case,” Vergeire said in Filipino.
The returning Filipino came from the United States and is fully vaccinated. One of the local cases is also fully vaccinated, and the status of the remaining patient is still being verified, Vergeire said.
The first 14 cases in the country of the highly transmissible subvariant were broken down as follows: two local cases in Metro Manila and 12 in Puerto Princesa—made up of 11 foreign travelers and one local, she said.
The BA.2.12.1, a sublineage of BA.2, has been detected in 23 countries. It makes up the majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States. At present, it is not a variant of interest or a variant of concern.
But the DOH confirmed there has been a local transmission of the subvariant.
Local transmission means that local cases have been detected that cannot be epidemiologically linked to cases with significant international travel history.
The most recent evidence indicates that Omicron BA.2.12.1 is highly transmissible due to additional mutations, compared to the original Omicron strain. While this sublineage has so far not been observed to lead to more severe disease or fatality, it has the potential for immune escape, the DOH said.
“Now that we have local transmission of Omicron BA.2.12.1, we must act fast. We are asking our health facilities and local government units to actively look for cases. Immediate isolation is advised for any person who has fever, cough, colds, sore or itchy throat, and other COVID-like signs and symptoms,” Vergeire said.
“Testing using RT-PCR is strongly advised during active surveillance as the method also allows for genomic sequencing. Large clusters should be prioritized for investigation, and contact tracing for cases belonging to these clusters should be conducted.”
In other developments, the government aims to vaccinate 8.3 million more people to reach its target of 77 million by the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term on June 30.
At a briefing Tuesday, National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) chairperson and Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje reported that to date, 68.7 million Filipinos have received two primary doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Another 4.5 million are due for second doses.
“We will do our best to reach the 77 million fully vaccinated by June 30. Our Secretary of Health has already requested that from regional directors when we had our meeting,” she said, citing the need to make sure those who received their first jabs will complete their primary series.
Cabotaje also said the government still needs to vaccinate some 5 million aged 5 to 11 and about 1 million in the 12 to 17 age group.
She said the government has enough supply of 15 million reformulated doses for the 5-to-11 age bracket, as well as regular doses for the remaining unvaccinated adult population.
Of the total fully vaccinated, more than 13.6 million have received their first booster shots.
For now, the second booster is for immunocompromised adults only.
The Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) has recommended a second booster shot for health care workers and the elderly but said it has yet to receive the requirements from the World Health Organization, Cabotaje said Tuesday.
“That’s what we’re working on. Once the WHO written requirements are released, we can announce the guidelines anytime,” Cabotaje said.
The government has given a second booster to 30,912 immunocompromised persons so far, she said.
Majority or 12,000 were from Metro Manila, 6,000 were from Calabarzon, while Central Luzon and Davao region had inoculated 3,000 each, and 2,000 were from Ilocos region, Cabotaje said.
Of the persons inoculated against COVID-19, only 0.07 percent experienced adverse reactions to the shots, Vergeire said.
The Department of Health (DOH) Monday logged the lowest number of COVID-19 active cases in a day this year at 2,688, as it reported 160 new cases.
The figure brings the nationwide caseload to 3,688,292, the DOH said on its website.
A total of 3,625,146 people have been counted as recoveries, while the death toll climbed to 60,458.
The regions with the greatest number of new cases in the last two weeks were the National Capital Region with 866 infections, Region 4-A with 259, and Region 3 with 247, the DOH reported.
A total of 21,202 people were tested as of May 14, with 313 laboratories being able to submit data.
The bed occupancy rate in the country was 16.7 percent, with 5,180 beds occupied and 25,924 vacant.
The DOH said the Philippines logged 1,118 new COVID-19 cases from May 9 to May 15, 0.3 percent lower than the cases reported the previous week.
The DOH also noted that the daily case average for the week was 160.
This was slightly lower compared to the 161 recorded from May 2 to May 8, with 1,124 new COVID-19 infections.
Data also showed that 588 severe and critical COVID-19 cases were currently in hospitals.
Metro Manila and several areas nationwide will remain under Alert Level 1 from May 16 to 31, Malacañang announced over the weekend.