DOH not ruling out undetected Omicron cases

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
DOH not ruling out undetected Omicron cases
Lines are still long in Pinyahan Elementary School despite sweltering heat, and malfunctions of Vote Counting Machines, May 9, 2022.
Philstar.com / Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday that it is not ruling out the possibility of “undetected” cases of the highly contagious Omicron sub-variant BA.2.12.1 in the country.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made this statement after two local COVID-19 patients in Metro Manila turned out to be BA.2.12.1 cases.

“The possibility that there are other cases of BA.2.12.1 in our country is there because we are not able to sequence all positive swab samples,” she told the Laging Handa public briefing.

Genome sequencing is a procedure to determine if the positive swab samples collected during RT-PCR testing is an infection from new variants of COVID-19.

The two local cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) are the first cases of BA.2.12.1 in the country, as they tested positive for COVID-19 last April 22.

Vergeire noted these two local cases are considered as the country’s index cases for the BA.2.12.1 since they are the ones first detected to have the sublineage, based on “epidemiologic terms.”

Although related to each other, the two patients do not have a history of travel abroad.

Both of them have experienced mild symptoms but are currently asymptomatic and have completed home isolation.

Aside from these two cases, there are 12 other BA.2.12.1 cases sequenced in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Eleven of them are foreigners while one is a local.

Local transmission

As of yesterday, Vergeire said it is “too early” to say if there is already “local transmission” of BA.2.12.1 in the country.

“We must have enough evidence to determine if there is local transmission here… We are not tracing where they have been to and we are trying to do a surveillance to trace the source of infection,” she said.

She added that the BA.2.12.1 has not been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a variant of concern or variant of interest.

However, it is about 23 to 27 percent more transmissible than the original Omicron and they can also cause “immune escape” in vaccines.

“The characteristics of this variant are still being studied… But there is no evidence yet that it causes severe infections,” she added.



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