The country has detected a case of the Omicron subvariant BA.4, considered a variant of concern which can either spread faster or cause more severe illness by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
The Department of Health said the Filipino who flew in from the Middle East arrived on May 4.
“He was asymptomatic,” the department said, adding that the man’s positive test result for the subvariant was collected on May 8.
“DOH has been coordinating with the concerned LGUs [local government units] since confirmation of the case to rapidly implement detection and isolation activities.”
BA.4’s faster transmission is likely because of its ability to evade immune protection induced by prior infection and/or vaccination, particularly if this has waned over time. While the ECDC has not observed any change in severity for BA.4 compared to other Omicron subvariants, we must be careful because faster transmission will lead to a spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals and clinics,” the department added.
On Tuesday, the Health department said it had detected local transmission of the Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, said local transmission is not the same as community transmission.
“This is not a community transmission where the infection is already so widespread that linkages cannot be traced anymore,” she said.
The government recently announced that it has detected 17 cases of Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1, two of them in Metro Manila.
The subvariant is said to be 27 percent more transmissible than BA.2, the dominant Omicron subvariant in the Philippines and the rest of the world.
The DOH earlier warned a fresh COVID-19 surge is possible if a new immune-escaping variant of the coronavirus enters the country and the immunity of the vaccinated people wanes.
The government has been advising citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the country has enough vaccine supply.
The government recently rolled out a second booster shot for health care workers and senior citizens to give them more protection against the virus.
The DOH started giving second booster doses to immunocompromised adults in April.