MANILA (UPDATED) — The Philippines has detected 2 additional cases of omicron subvariant BQ.1, raising its tally to 16, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
The 2 local BQ.1 cases were found in Cagayan Valley and Central Visayas, the DOH's latest COVID-19 biosurveillance report showed.
The BQ.1, which is a sublineage of omicron BA.5, is considered a variant of interest by the European Center for Disease Control.
Deemed to be highly transmissible and better at evading immunity, the BQ.1 is driving up coronavirus infections in the US, UK, and parts of Europe.
The DOH also detected 536 new cases of omicron subvariants, which include the 2 BQ.1 cases.
These include 353 cases of BA.2.3.20, 1 case of BA.4, 21 cases of BA.5, 133 cases of XBB and 28 cases tagged as other omicron sublineages.
The agency also found 45 new cases of XBC and 3 more cases of delta variant.
These are results of the latest sequencing run conducted by University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center and Southern Philippines Medical Center from November 21-24, the agency said.
All additional BA.2.3.20 cases were local cases from 10 regions, namely regions 1, 2, 3, 4A, 5, 6, 7, 11, CAR, and NCR.
Meanwhile, of the 21 BA.5 cases, 19 were local cases from regions 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, and CAR, and the remaining 2 cases were returning overseas Filipinos.
During Tuesday's virtual town hall forum, Dr. Alethea De Guzman said omicron has become the most prevalent strain worldwide.
Health authorities are also keeping watch against its 4 subvariants known as BF.7, BA.5.2, BQ.1.1 and BA.2.75, she added.
Omicron became the dominant strain in the Philippines since December 2021, added De Guzman, director of DOH's epidemiology bureau.
She noted that the presence of new subvariants did not automatically translate to a "significant" increase in the number of infections and hospital admissions.