5 Jun 2024 – FLiRT detected in Philippine, but COVID risk remains low

Published by rudy Date posted on June 5, 2024

Rhodina Villanueva – The Philippine Star
June 5, 2024 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — New COVID variants are causing the recent increase in cases in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

The health department issued the statement after it was informed by the Philippine Genome Center that a new set of Omicron subvariants is present in the country.

“Recent sequencing data by the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center confirmed this, with the identification of 30 cases of JN.1 and two each of JN.1.18 and KP.2,” the DOH said in a statement.

The agency said the earliest sample collection date for JN.1 in the Philippines was November 2023 and May 2024 for KP.2.

It said it was likely that there were earlier KP.2 cases in the country, but because of limited sequencing, it was not immediately detected and reported.

These Omicron subvariants form part of the variants under monitoring: JN.1.7, JN.1.18, KP.2 and KP.3, which are all descendants of JN.1.

Variants KP.2 and KP.3 are the proper names of what is informally known as “FLiRT” variants.

The DOH earlier said it was just working on the assumption that the flagged Omicron subvariants are already present in the country.

While it has recorded a slow increase in cases, the DOH said it continues to track COVID case counts and new variants.

“Data as of May 27 show that all regions remain to be at low risk for COVID,” the agency said.

Based on its latest report, the DOH said the total number of COVID cases from May 21 to 27 was 2,235 while the average number of daily reported cases was 319.

“This is higher than the previous week’s figure of 202, but is still less than half compared to around 500 per day at the start of this year, and to around 1,750 per day in the middle of May 2023,” the DOH said.

It said the daily average number of reported severe, critical and ICU COVID admissions as of May 27 this year was lower than the figures recorded during middle of May 2023.

“Of the new cases reported for the said week, 22 were severe or critical. Twenty fatalities were recorded including five, which occurred in the last two weeks or from May 14 to 27,” the report said.

Severe and critical COVID cases admitted in various hospitals were only 185 or 10 percent of the total number of admissions.

“The detection (of the new variants) along with the slow increase in the number of new cases aligns with the international observation that the new variants under monitoring continue to be clinically mild and manageable,” the health department said.

The DOH said it is closely coordinating with international health authorities in monitoring COVID variants.

It advised the public to continue practicing minimum health protocols to avoid getting sick.

“Voluntary use of face masks should be done properly, along with standard precautions such as hand washing, avoiding crowds and staying in properly ventilated areas,” the department said.

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