PH logs first Omicron XBB subvariant, XBC variant cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 18) — The country has detected its first cases of the COVID-19 Omicron XBB subvariant and XBC variant, the Department of Health announced on Tuesday.

In a press briefing, DOH Officer-in-Charge Ma.Rosario Vergeire said 81 Omicron XBB subvariant infections were detected in two regions and 193 XBC variant cases were recorded in 11 regions. She did not say in which regions the cases were found.

Of the Omicron XBB subvariant cases detected, 70 have already recovered, eight are still isolating, while the conditions of three other patients are still being validated. The patients were from the Western Visayas and Davao Region.

Meanwhile, 176 of the XBC variant patients were already tagged as recovered, three are still isolating, while five died. Health authorities are still looking into the status of six other patients, the DOH added. The agency noted that the XBC cases were detected in Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Cordillera Administrative Region, Caraga, and the National Capital Region.

Vergeire said that the Omicron XBB subvariant has been the primary cause of the uptick in COVID-19 cases in Singapore. Citing the Singaporean Ministry of Health, the DOH official said there is no sufficient evidence that the XBB subvariant causes more severe illness.

On the other hand, the XBC variant is under monitoring and investigation by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency. It is said to be a recombinant of Delta and BA.2 variants.

But the DOH said there is no need to put restrictions on the country's borders despite the detection of the new COVID-19 variant and subvariant.

"Sa ngayon wala tayong indikasyon para tayo ay maghigpit. The life cycle of a virus, kasama na diyan yung mutations and the production of new variants. Tayo ay may safeguards na ngayon, kasi our population is vaccinated," said Vergeire. "Pangalawa, ang behavior ng pagsusuot ng mask ay nandiyan na sa ating mga kababayan. Pangatlo, handa ang ating sistema kung sakaling tataas ang mga kaso."

[Translation: There is no indication that we need to put restrictions for now. Mutations and the production of new variants are part of the life cycle of a virus. We already have safeguards because our population is vaccinated. Second, it's already part of everyone's behavior to wear masks. Third, our system is ready if ever our COVID-19 cases rise.]

From Oct. 11-17, the country detected 15,144 new COVID-19 cases, or 2,163 cases per day.

Meanwhile, a total of 164.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of Oct. 16.