DOH confirms local transmission of Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1

Published May 17, 2022, 1:42 PM

by Analou de Vera

COVID-19 virus

The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the local transmission of the Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reported that a total of 17 cases of the said Omicron subvariant were already detected in the country.

Cases have been detected in Metro Manila, Western Visayas, and Puerto Princesa City, said Vergeire.

“Bagamat nai-report po natin ang detection ng Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 noong nakaraang linggo, narito po tayo upang sabihin na mayroon na pong local transmission nitong subvariant ng Omicron na ito sa ating bansa (Although we reported the detection of Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 last week, we are now reporting that we already have local transmission of this Omicron subvariant in our country),” said Vergeire in a press briefing on Tuesday, May 17.

“Nangangahulugan po na ang mga kaso na na-detect natin ay wala na pong kaugnayan sa mga kaso na nagmula sa labas ng bansa ngunit makikita pa rin po ang linkages ng mga detected cases (It means that the cases we have detected are no longer related to the cases that have international travel history but you can still see the linkages of the detected cases),” she added.

Meanwhile, Vergeire said that there is no community transmission yet of the said Omicron subvariant.

“Hindi pa ho ito community transmission kung saan malawakan na ang pagkalat o kaya ay hindi na po matrace ang mga linkages ng bawat kaso (It is not yet a community transmission where the spread is already widespread or the linkages of each case can no longer be traced),” she added.

The DOH said that the Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 is believed to be highly transmissible due to additional mutations, compared to the original Omicron strain.

“While this sublineage has so far not been observed to lead to more severe disease or fatality, it has the potential for immune escape,” the DOH said.

Currently, this Omicron subvariant as well as BA.2.12 are said to be responsible for the spike in cases in New York.

The DOH asked the different local government units to intensify the conduct of active case finding in their respective areas.

“Now that we have local transmission of Omicron BA.2.12.1, we must act fast. We are asking our health facilities and local government units to actively look for cases. Immediate isolation is advised for any person who has fever, cough, colds, sore or itchy throat, and other COVID-like signs and symptoms,” said Vergeire.

“Testing using RT-PCR is strongly advised during active surveillance as the method also allows for genomic sequencing. Large clusters should be prioritized for investigation, and contact tracing for cases belonging to these clusters should be conducted,” she added.

Covid-19 situation

Despite this development, the DOH continues to observe a decreasing number of Covid-19 cases nationwide with an average of 157 cases per day.

“Nationally, tayo ay nasa minimal risk [case classification]. There are some regions na nasa low-risk ngayon because nagpositive yung growth rate nila for this past week. Pero pag tiningnan natin, yung pagtaas ng kaso ay mga dalawa hanggang 30 kaso—not enough to translate to higher admissions in hospitals or higher severe and critical cases,” said Vergeire.

Complete vaccination, get boosted

The DOH once again urged the public to complete their Covid-19 vaccination, particularly to receive their booster shot to enhance their protection against the viral disease.

The state health agency also said that special vaccination teams are being prepared for immediate deployment to areas where the subvariant has been detected, to help provide additional population protection through vaccination and boosters.

“While we have high vaccination rates, vaccination coverage, especially boosters, slowed down in the last few months. We continue to urge the public to get boosted to avoid surges and hospital admissions that could overwhelm the country’s health systems,” said Vergeire.

“We must all follow the health protocols – wear the best-fitted mask, isolate when sick, and choose good airflow. While the cases are low and the healthcare capacities are not overwhelmed, now is the best time to be vaccinated and get boosted as soon as eligible,” said DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III.