According to data from the most recent genome sequencing, Omicron BQ.1, a sublineage of the highly contagious BA.5 subvariant, has been found in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) announced on Friday.
The DOH reports that from October 28 to November 18, 14 cases of BQ.1 were discovered using the most recent genome sequencing performed by the UP-Philippine Genome Center, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and San Lazaro Hospital.
According to the DOH, 13 of the 14 cases originated locally in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Regions 1, 4A, 7, and the National Capital Region (NCR).
The DOH has not yet confirmed whether the remaining case involves a returning Filipino from abroad (ROF).
When compared to other Omicron subvariants, BQ.1 is “more transmissible and more immune evasive,” according to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire.
“What we know so far from this BQ.1, it is more transmissible and also highly immune evasive compared to the other subvariants of Omicron,” she said.
14 cases of Omicron subvariant BQ.1 detected in PH
“Pero we have always reiterated to everybody that it is time for us that our mindset would be that yes, we are aware that there are these variant and subvariant being detected in the country but we should also be aware whatever variants and subvariants may be detected, our protocols for us to get direction and also to protect our families are all the same,” she said.
Vergeire urged people to get immunized against these COVID-19 variants and subvariants discovered and to follow minimal public health precautions.
“All these subvariants being published or nadetect natin through our sequencing results pareho pa rin ang ating protection na kailangan, it should always be our minimum public health standards pati na rin po ang pagbabakuna tayo,” Vergeire said.
“We continuously remind our public that is why, that is also the reason we are not so much not welling on informing and disseminating this kind of information though in the spirit of transparency also we posted in our website,” she added.
The number of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 coronavirus variations in the US was estimated by health regulators to be 16.6% on Friday, nearly tripling from the previous week. In Europe, the two varieties are anticipated to overtake all others in a month.