DOH confirms detection of Omicron BQ.1 in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 25) — The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday confirmed that it has detected the "highly transmissible and immune-evasive" Omicron BQ.1 sublineage in the country.

DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said 14 new cases of BQ.1 have been recorded so far.

The Health Department said 13 of these are local cases from the Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos region, Calabarzon, Central Visayas, and the National Capital Region.

These cases comprised 0.03% of the total count of Omicron subvariants in the country, the DOH added.

"What we know so far from this BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 would be that it is more transmissible and also it is highly immune-evasive compared to the other subvariants of Omicron," Vergeire said in a media forum.

BQ.1 is a sublineage of BA.5, an Omicron offshoot which the Philippine Genome Center said may be the major contributor in the COVID-19 wave experienced by the country in August

Based on the Health Department's data from Oct. 28 to Nov. 18, the following are the total cases for Omicron subvariants in country:

- BA.5 – 12,538 (26.57%)

- BA.2.3.20 – 3,132 (6.64%)

- XBB – 551 (1.17%)

- XBC – 487 (1.03%)

- BA.4 – 323 (0.68%)

- BA.2.75 – 35 (0.07%)

The local transmission of the highly transmissible Omicron XBB subvariant and XBC variant was confirmed by the DOH on Oct. 21.

"We should always practice our minimum public health standards pati na rin po ang pinakaimportante, magpapabakuna tayo [and the most important, we should be vaccinated] so that we can be protected especially against these variants," Vergeire reminded the public.

The DOH said it is studying the incoming new generation of vaccines to be a third booster against COVID-19 for the vulnerable population or the senior citizens, immuno-compromised, and healthcare workers.

READ: DOH logs 8,004 COVID-19 cases on Nov. 14-20, down 12% from previous week