MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines has detected its first 2 cases of the omicron BA.5 variant, the Department of Health said Friday.
The 2 patients from the same household in Central Luzon had no travel history except to their polling precinct in Metro Manila, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The pair immediately isolated on May 16, a day after experiencing cough and colds, Vergeire said. They finished their isolation period on May 30 and are now asymptomatic and tagged as recovered, she added.
"Maliban sa pagpunta sa election precinct dito sa NCR, wala pong tarvel history ang dalawang indibidwal," Vergeire told reporters.
(Aside from going to the election precinct here in NCR, the 2 individuals had no travel history.)
"Makikitang hindi kritikal at malubha ang mga panibagong variants at halos pareho lamang ang characteristics ng BA.5 at BA.4 kaya gagana pa rin ang ating health protocols at health measures."
(It can be seen that the new variants do not cause severe and critical illness and that the BA.4 and BA.5 have nearly the same characteristics so our health protocols and measures will still work.)
The patients had 2 close contacts, who were members of their household and continue to isolate after one of them tested positive for the virus, Vergeire said.
The sample from the COVID-positive close contact has yet to be genome sequenced, she added.
The Philippines last month reported its first omicron BA.4 subvariant in a returning Filipino from the Middle East and have so far reported 22 cases of the omicron BA.2.12.1 subvariant.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in May said subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 were behind the surge in cases in South Africa.
Both subvariants are 10 percent to 30 percent more transmissible than BA.2, which in turn is 20 percent to 30 percent more infectious than the original omicron variant, according to infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana.
"Yung concern kasi sa South Africa nagda-drive na naman ng 5th wave yung BA.4 and BA.5. Mukhang mabilis din nagpeak yun, one-third or one-fourth the peak of their original omicron [cases]," he said.
(The concern in South Africa is that the BA.4 and BA.5 are again driving a fifth wave. It seemed it peaked quickly, one-third or one-fourth the peak of their original omicron.)
"It doesn't seem like nakaka-evade siya nang ganun kagrabe compared to original omicron...We’re detecting it here, wala naman tayo nakikitang masyadong movement sa number of cases, it's still below 200 a day. So continue to monitor but I think our vaccines continue to protect us."
(It doesn't seem like it evades antibodies that much compared to original omicron...We’re detecting it here, yet we don't see movement in the number of cases, it's still below 200 a day.)
PHILIPPINES STILL 'LOW RISK'
The country's virus positivity rate, or the number of persons who test positive for COVID-19, remains at 1.1 percent, Vergeire said. The Philippines recorded 1,259 new cases from May 26 to June 1 or an average of 180 cases daily, which is lower by 13 or 7 percent from the previous week, she added.
All regions except Northern Mindanao and the Bangsamoro have recorded a positive 2-week growth rate and are classified as "low risk." The two regions are classified as having "minimal risk" for COVID-19 cases.
"Gayunpaman, as mentioned, kasalukuyan pa ring mababa ang COVID-19 case nationally at sa lahat ng ating mga rehiyon, with less than 1 case per 100,000 population and average daily attack rates," she said.
(However, as mentioned, our COVID-19 cases remain low nationally and in all regions, with less than 1 case per 100,000 population and average daily attack rates.)
— With a report from Agence France-Presse