COVID-MANILA, Philippines – According to data from the Department of Health (DOH), 19 infections in the Philippines are on the rise again as a result of the detection of cases of the more transmissible subvariants of Omircon.

Cases rose in the last four days, from May 19 to May 22, according to Rappler monitoring based on DOH data, though they fell on Sunday, May 22.

Dr. John Wong of Epimetrics said his company also saw an increase in cases, but he was watching to see if the trend would continue in the next four days.

When asked if the possible surge would be at the same level as the Omicron peak in January, Wong replied in a text message, “we don’t know if it will be the same or greater level.”

The surge, he explained, would be determined by “variant, vaccination level, masking and distancing behaviour, ventilation, and weather.”

“Subvariants are more easily transmitted.” Vaccination rates are only marginally higher than in January. More people will stay indoors during the rainy season. “However, behaviour and ventilation are unknown,” Wong explained.

Epimetrics is a public health research organisation dedicated to achieving health equity through rigors and creative health system and policy research conception, execution, translation, and communication.

The Philippines saw an increase in cases after detecting cases of the more transmissible subvariants of Omicron – BA.2.12, BA.2,12.1, and BA.4. The DOH confirmed local transmission of BA.2.12.1 on May 17 after local cases were discovered in Western Visayas and Metro Manila. To date, 17 cases of this Omicron offshoot have been identified.

According to experts, BA.2.12.1 spreads easily and is up to 27 percent more transmissible than BA.2, the dominant subvariant of Omicron in the Philippines and the rest of the world. Experts believe that the faster transmission of BA.4 is due to its ability to evade immune protection induced by prior infection or vaccination.

While other countries were already dealing with an increase in infections caused by Omicron subvariants, Wong claimed that “combined infection- and vaccine-induced immunity has protected us for the last three months.”

“Unfortunately, the new subvariants have the potential for immune escape.” “We don’t know how much,” he said.

According to the DOH, cases from May 16 to 22 increased by 9.9 percent compared to the previous week.

Wong believes the government should “revitalise the flagging vaccination programme, enforce indoor ventilation standards, and remind the public to observe minimum public health standards.”

Approximately 62 percent of Filipinos have been fully immunised against the deadly virus. While additional doses are possible for additional groups, at least 30% of Filipinos have yet to receive a single dose. Meanwhile, uptake of first boosters remains low, with only 13.7 million, or 25% of the 54.4 million eligible Filipinos, receiving their additional shot.

Wong believes that hospitals should begin planning for surge capacity now in order to avoid overcrowding when the increase in cases occurs.

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