New COVID-19 omicron subvariants will cause surge in cases: OCTA Research

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 25 2022 04:48 PM | Updated as of Apr 26 2022 02:55 PM

People spend time and exercise outdoors as the capital region remains under the loosest COVID-19 alert level on March 10, 2022 at the Pinagbuhatan Shrine in San Juan City. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
People spend time and exercise outdoors as the capital region remains under the loosest COVID-19 alert level on March 10, 2022 at the Pinagbuhatan Shrine in San Juan City. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - The three new omicron subvariants will cause another surge in COVID-19 cases should they be detected in the Philippines, OCTA Research Group said Monday.

The BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 are more transmissible than the BA.2 subvariant, which is dominant in the Philippines and around the world, according to biologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco.

"Any of these variants could trigger another surge in our country when it arrives because these 3 will outcompete the BA.2. These are probably very mild (but) we still do not want to get sick. This is why boosters are important," he said in a forum organized by Go Negosyo.

"Even though they are mild for those who have immunity, they are not as mild and can be deadly for those who have lost their immunity or who have never had immunity in the first place."

The Department of Health earlier said the BA.4 and BA.5 were not a cause of concern yet and that the country has not detected any of the new subvariants.

But it warned that the Philippines might tally up to 332,000 active cases by mid-May if the public's compliance with minimum health standards lowers by 30 percent.

The Philippines is currently at a "very low" COVID-19 risk level with a 1.4 percent positivity rate, 23 percent healthcare utilization rate, and 0.67 virus reproduction rate, according to Guido David, another OCTA Research fellow.

"When it will happen, because it's already starting to happen in South Africa and Delhi, I believe it will happen sometime soon. It will happen sometime in May and June," he said.

"I tend to think it will not be a surge just like in January. It will be a much lower increase in cases relatively. Then again, we’re still monitoring what’s happening in India," he added.

OCTA Research has no recommendation to lock down any part of the country, its head Ranjit Rye said.

"We believe that what will happen in the next few weeks will be manageable," he said in a press briefing Tuesday.

Meanwhile, some 34 percent of 1,200 respondents said in an OCTA survey that they would get a booster shot against COVID-19. Around 26 percent said they have already received an additional jab, while 13 percent said they would "probably not or surely not" get it. 

Some 38 percent said they would continue to wear face masks for 6 more months after the COVID-19 situation in the country has been controlled, while 37 percent said they would continue to wear it for a year.

The poll, conducted from March 5 to 10, has a ±3 margin of error.

Lawmakers previously criticized OCTA Research for the accuracy of its COVID-19 projections. The group said it uses data from the DOH.

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