DoH denies ‘late’ XBB detection reporting

The Department of Health on Wednesday denied claims that the agency took more than a month before announcing the detections of the first cases of Omicron XBB subvariant in the Philippines.
The Health department clarified that it did not take the DoH more than a month to report the genome sequencing results and stressed that the information reported on Tuesday was from genome sequencing results only released last 15 to 18 October.
It added that the samples collected in the genomic sequencing run where at least a total of 81 XBB subvariant cases have been detected were from August and September.
“It was only forwarded to PGC in early October due to transportation issues considering they came from Mindanao where flights were not regular or samples could only be sent on select dates,” said the DoH.
The Health department assured the public that it is now working with its counterparts in Mindanao to ensure the country’s biosurveillance and reporting are timely and responsive.

Several health experts made claims that the Omicron XBB subvariant may already be in the country.

Dr. Tony Leachon, a former special adviser of the National Task Force against Covid-19, also claimed that the detection of the subvariant may actually be “late.”

“Our testing capacity is not enough, including the testing of the Philippine Genome Center. It is possible that it could have been detected a few weeks ago,” Leachon said in a radio interview.

On Tuesday night, the DoH said that of the 81 XBB subvariant cases, 61 were tagged as local cases with indicated addresses from Western Visayas with 60 cases and Davao Region with one case.

“Based on the case line list, eight cases are still active, 50 cases have been tagged as recovered, while there are three cases whose outcomes are still being verified,” it said.

Meanwhile, of the reported 193 XBC subvariants cases, 71 XBC variant cases were all local cases with indicated addresses from SOCCSKSARGEN with 38 cases, Davao Region with 27 cases, Western Visayas with five cases, and one case from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

So far, at least 63 cases have been tagged as recovered, five cases died while three cases are still being verified.

The XBB variant, first detected in India last August 2022, is a recombinant of two Omicron subvariants, according to the Health department.

“At present, it has been detected in at least 24 countries and 4 continents and has been the primary cause of the recent spikes of Covid-19 cases in Singapore,” it said.

“Preliminary studies suggest that the XBB variant shows higher immune evasion ability than the BA.5 variant, but there is no sufficient evidence that this variant causes a more severe illness,” it added.
Meantime, Department of Education spokesperson Michael Poa said the agency hasn’t changed yet its policy for the implementation of full face-to-face classes in public schools by next month despite the detection of the Covid-19 Omicron XBB and XVC sub-variants in the country.

Poa said that they are still waiting for the guidance of the DoH on the matter.

“Right now, there is no advice on any change. In fact, we just issued Department Order 44 on Monday. We, in DepEd, will always take its cue from the advice given by the DOH when it comes to health guidelines or any health concerns,” Poa said.

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