Solante: It’s a matter of time before Omicron BA.2.75 reaches our shores
It is only a matter of time before the highly transmissible COVID-19 Omicron subvariant BA.2.75 enters the Philippines, a health expert said Wednesday.
“This variant is in 10 or 12 countries including India and I cannot say it will not happen here to us,” said Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the adult infectious diseases and tropical medicine unit of San Lazaro Hospital. “There’s a possibility, it’s only a matter of when it will enter here.”
“We will also have to prepare just like what we’re doing now with BA.5,” he said in a public briefing.
Solante said he agreed with the Department of Health (DOH) decision not to impose tighter border controls even as new subvariants emerge.
Solante also said that it was too early to tell the characteristics of the new subvariant.
“If you look at the genetic tree of Omicron, as they evolve there’s always that increased transmissibility and the ability to evade vaccines,” he said.
“We will wait for more data if…it can really cause severe disease. When we look at variants, those are the important implications.”
BA.2.75 first emerged in India in May and has spread to other countries like the United States, Britain, Australia, and Netherlands.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has tagged the BA.2.75 as a “variant under monitoring.”
Meanwhile, the country has detected 910 more cases of the highly transmissible Omicron subvariants BA.5, BA.4 and BA.2.12.1, the DOH said.
DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the government found an additional 816 cases of the Omicron BA.5, 52 new cases of the BA2.12.1, and 42 more cases of the BA.4.
All regions except Bangsamoro have logged a case of the Omicron BA.5, Vergeire said.
Twelve of the additional BA.5 cases were returning Filipinos, she added.
Of the 816 newly reported BA.5 cases, 686 have recovered, 78 were still under isolation while the status of the remaining 52 was still being verified, Vergeire said.
A total of 560 were fully vaccinated, while the inoculation status of the remaining 256 was still being verified, she said.
Out of the additional 52 BA.2.12.1 cases, 49 have recovered and the condition of the remaining three was still being verified, she said.
The country on Wednesday logged 2,074 new COVID-19 cases, pushing active cases to 20,678, the highest since April 17.
Of the additional infections, 788 are from Metro Manila, according to the DOH.
Vergeire said that the rising number of new cases should not yet be a cause for concern.
“But we must still be vigilant because we are seeing a continuous increase of new COVID-19 cases in the country,” she said.
Also on Wednesday, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said mass media should be used to convince people of the benefits of vaccination.
He said the government should employ persuasion and not force.
Pimentel was sought for his comment on the more than 1.5 million doses of the private sector-procured COVID-19 vaccines that are set to expire by end-July.
On the same issue, Senator Francis Escudero cited the need to ease the restrictions on who can be vaccinated and given booster shots.
He said the private sector could donate the expiring booster shots against COVID-19 to local government units (LGUs) with a high number of cases and with high absorptive capacity to do the jabs.
He also said the vulnerable sectors that need vaccination and booster shots should be targeted and identified.
He also suggested that incentives be given to those who will be given vaccination or booster shots either from the national government or the LGUs.
Earlier, Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion urged the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to expand the second booster coverage to include the general population.
At present, the administration of a fourth vaccine shot in the country is limited to health workers, the immunocompromised and senior citizens.