New COVID-19 variant JN.1 may enter Philippines

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
New COVID-19 variant JN.1 may enter Philippines
Shoppers flock to Divisoria in Manila on December 20, 2023.
STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The new COVID-19 subvariant JN.1 now circulating in the US and other countries is expected to enter the country in “due time,” according to an infectious disease specialist.

Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) president Dr. Rontgene Solante stressed the need to closely monitor the new subvariant that could trigger a further rise in cases of the infectious disease.

“I think we need to monitor this one. I don’t know if it has been detected in our surveillance, but given the fact that it is in neighboring countries and we do not have travel restrictions, in due time it will be here as well,” Solante said yesterday in a mix of Filipino and English in a radio interview.

Based on preliminary data, Solante said JN.1 does not have characteristics like that of Delta, which could cause severe infections.

The World Health Organization previously classified the JN.1 coronavirus subvariant as a “variant of interest,” noting that it did not pose much threat to public health.

The rising number of COVID-19 cases at this time, Solante said, should not cause panic since the incidence of respiratory viruses is expected to increase because of the holiday season and the cold weather.

Solante noted that even before the pandemic, influenza-like illnesses (ILI) normally jumped during cold months.

He added that a majority of those who got infected with COVID as well as other respiratory viruses have recovered fast and did not require hospitalization.

He said people need to strengthen their immune systems to avoid getting severe types of ILI and COVID.

Health officials are encouraging people to wear face masks.

Meanwhile, Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Angelo Bongalon filed House Bill 9114, which seeks to harmonize the functions of the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) with other new legislation.

“It has been observed that there is a three- to five-year trend in the occurrence of public health emergency of international concern and pandemic over a rapidly increasing connectivity among people, trade and modern technology which policies and regulations must adopt,” the bill stated.

On a local scale, a standardized protocol on quarantine, isolation and quarantine lockdown nationwide may be included in the regulatory mandate of the bureau. – Sheila Crisostomo

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