Medical experts, private sector meet as Omicron subvariants raise concern

Published May 14, 2022, 3:48 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

As more infectious subvariants of Covid-19 emerge worldwide, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion called on medical and data experts to discuss measures to avert a highly contagious strain that is said to be more infectious than the “stealth Omicron.”

MB UPLIFT’s awardee for Public Service, Presidential Adviser & GoNegosyo Founder Joey Concepcion

In a statement, Concepcion said he would meet the experts on Monday, May 16, following the emergence of new, more infectious Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 in countries that closely mirror the Philippines’ pandemic experience.

Vaccine Expert Panel members led by Dr. Nina Gloriani, medical and data experts from OCTA Research led by Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, Dr. Maricar Limpin, and leaders of Philippine business will attend the meeting.

According to Concepcion, it was incumbent upon the private sector to assist the incoming government at this time.

“Covid is still very much around, and we have to stay focused more than ever so we can keep the economy open,” he said.

Two other Omicron sublineages, BA 2.12 and BA.2.12.1, were recently detected in the country, and those infected have not shown any severe disease. Concepcion said this was made possible by the protection given by the vaccines and booster shots.

“But with the increased mobility in the last few weeks, especially now that we are welcoming more visitors from overseas, we must keep an eye out for BA.4 and BA.5,” he said.

The new versions are almost identical and are more transmissible than the BA.2 subvariant. It is now responsible for the spike in South Africa’s Covid cases, which have tripled since mid-April, even though the country has a high vaccination rate.

Initial reports said that those vaccinated or have previously contracted the Omicron variant did not require hospitalization or die from the disease. However, Alex Sigal, a professor at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa, was quoted in a report that those infected with Covid before Omicron but are unvaccinated will not have much immunity.

Philippine medical experts closely watch South Africa as it mirrors the virus’s behavior here. Virologists here said that the unvaccinated have no immunity against the two variants.

Concepcion said that the Philippines must stay ahead of these new variants and subvariants. One way of doing this is through vaccinations and boosters instead of elevating alert levels.

“We cannot go to heightened alert levels anymore as our economy will suffer,” he said.

“The additional debt for our pandemic response was not in our plans from before, and it added to the capital expenditures we needed to build infrastructure,” he added.

According to Go Negosyo founder, The conflict in Ukraine is pushing up commodity prices, raising fears of stagflation wherein consumers can no longer afford the sky-high prices, causing the economy to stall.

“We cannot raise alert levels, but we can raise immunity levels,” he said.

“We saw how opening the economy has raised our GDP to 8.5 percent in the first quarter. We need to maintain that,” he added.