The country has not yet detected a sub-lineage of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the BA.2 or the Stealth Omicron was discovered a week after the detection of Omicron.
“As of now, we still have not detected the BA.2 in our country,” Vergeire said in an interview on CNN.
Vergeire also said that the country has the capacity to detect the sub-lineage.
“In our Philippine Genome Center, when we do our whole-genome sequencing, all the possible lineages that are present in every sample that we get can be detected,” she said.
Vergeire said the World Health Organization (WHO) and other experts are still studying the BA.2.
“Based on their initial findings and based on observing patients… there is not much difference with Omicron as to the severity of illness,” she said.
She said they would wait to see if WHO classifies it as a variant of interest or concern.
The United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has designated the BA.2 as a variant under investigation.
The UKHSA said that while there was uncertainty around the significance of the changes to the viral genome, the early analysis suggested an increased growth rate compared to the original Omicron lineage.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said more studies are needed on the subvariant of Omicron.
“So far, limited data shows it’s not that different from the Omicron variant. If there’s any, it might be faster in transmission,” he said.
In terms of the country’s COVID response, he said vaccines continue to be effective versus severe and critical cases and therefore in preventing hospitalization and deaths.
The country’s vaccine expert panel is also studying the effectivity of a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Duque said.
The Philippines last week reported its first two deaths from Omicron among 492 additional cases of the lineage.
Nearly 70 percent of the samples in the latest whole-genome sequencing was omicron, while 16 percent was composed of Delta cases and 1 percent was an Alpha case, Duque said.