The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday advised the public to be vigilant against the spread of conjunctivitis, commonly known as sore eyes or pink eye, saying it is one of the new symptoms of COVID-19, particularly the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16 or Arcturus.
Meanwhile, the weekly COVID positivity rate in Metro Manila went up to 14.3 percent as of April 27, the independent monitoring OCTA Research Group reported.
Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine of the state-run San Lazaro Hospital, said persons with “Arcturus pink eye” will also show other signs of COVID infection.
According to Solante, sore throat, runny nose, and headache might be some of these manifestations, adding that coughing does not normally go with conjunctivitis.
He stressed that sore eyes and COVID are both highly-transmissible.
“.They have to isolate themselves. Stay at home, and wash their hands every time they touch their eyes or face,” he said.
Independent monitoring group Octa Research Group earlier attributed the rising coronavirus infections to the Arcturus subvariant, which was first detected in a patient in Iloilo province.
The DOH said the patient was asymptomatic and has recovered.
OCTA fellow Guido David said the latest positivity rate, or the percentage of tests turning out positive for the coronavirus, rose to 14.4 percent from 9 percent as of April 20.
David said however that deaths and hospitalizations in the National Capital Region due to COVID remained low at 22 percent, adding that “NCR has reported close to zero deaths.”
Aside from Metro Manila, the positivity rates in Calabarzon and Central Luzon were also rising, as well as in Central and Western Visayas, David said.
The increase in COVID cases developed amid the possible spread of omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, known as “Arcturus,” in the country.
XBB.1.16 is a descendent lineage of XBB, a recombinant of two BA.2 descendent lineages.
The new COVID variant has the ability to evade immunity and is believed to be more transmissible.
The WHO designated the XBB.1.16 as a variant of interest last week following a sustained increase in its prevalence, covering at least 33 countries.
Despite the rise in COVID cases, David said they were not recommending imposing stricter protocols, but urged the public to continue wearing masks and observe other public-health measures.