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DOH records 1st case of Omicron BA.4 subvariant in the Philippines

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published May 21, 2022 4:46 pm Updated May 21, 2022 4:54 pm

The Department of Health (DOH) announced Saturday that it has recently detected the first case of Omicron BA.4 subvariant, which is classified as a "variant of concern," in the country.

In a statement, DOH described the patient as a male Filipino citizen who flew from the Middle East last May 4. He took the test on May 8 and was asymptomatic.

The agency said that the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) identifies Omincron BA.4 as a variant of concern (VOC).

DOH explained, "Compared to a variant of interest (VOI), a VOC is seen to either spread faster or cause worse illness. BA.4's faster transmission is likely because of its ability to evade immune protection induced by prior infections and/or vaccination, particularly if this has waned over time."

Similar to the original Omnicon variant —BA.1— BA.4 emerged from South Africa last January. 

The World Health Organization(WHO) has since detected the subvariant in other countries, including Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S.

According to a report by CNBC, WHO's COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said that BA.4 doesn't appear to be more contagious or deadly than the first subvariant. However, Kerkhove noted that it could change as the number of cases increase.

DOH then advised the public to take extra precautions, as "faster transmission will lead to a spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals and clinic." It also urges everyone to get vaccinated and boosted and continue following health protocols, including wearing face masks and isolating themselves when sick.