PH detects first cases of Omicron BF.7 subvariant

4:37 pm on 24 December 2022, Saturday

by Jade Veronique V. Yap 

The Philippines has detected four cases of Omicron BF.7, a sublineage of the highly transmissible Omicron BA.5 subvariant, the Department of Health said Friday. 

The variant was detected through genome sequencing on 133 samples conducted by the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) Diliman and Mindanao from December 14 to December 15. 

"Currently, the subvariant is still reported under BA.5 by the World Health Organization and will remain classified under Omicron until sufficient evidence arises showing that the virus characteristics are significantly different from Omicron," the DOH said in a statement.

"As of current date, only four BF.7 cases have been detected in the country," it added. 

According to the latest COVID-19 biosurveillance report of the DOH conducted during the genome sequencing from December 14 to December 15, one case of the BF.7 subvariant was from the National Capital Region (NCR).

The DOH, however, did not mention where the other three Omicron BF.7 cases were detected.

Although being initially flagged by researchers as potentially more contagious than the wild BA.5 subvariant and able to evade immunity, the DOH said that BF.7, "does not suggest any differences in disease severity or clinical manifestations compared to Omicron."

Despite the detection, the DOH said COVID-19 cases in the country have plateaued, averaging 973 daily cases during December 16-22. 
This number is down by 5 percent over the past week.

"This is 5% lower than what was reported last week. On December 21, the country recorded a 21.73% utilization rate of total available COVID-19 beds; moreover, severe and critical admissions made up 10.57% of total COVID-19 related admissions, including those in the emergency room," the DOH said.

The DOH reminded the public to keep following health measures like wearing face masks, isolating when sick, vaccinating and boosting against the virus, and maintaining good airflow.

"These are the measures that we can address and control, rather than focusing on the presence of a transmissible variant. If such factors will be adhered to and implemented by ourselves immediately, the decline in cases may be observed sooner," the DOH said. ###


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