Health News

DOH confirms uptick of Covid-19 cases, says its slow, manageable

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) has observed a slow increase in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases which are tagged as mild, making all regions remain at low-risk status.

Latest DOH data showed that the average number of daily reported cases for the week May 21 to 27 this year is 319.

“This is higher than the previous week’s figure (202), but is still less than half compared to around 500 per day at the start of this year, and also compared to around 1,750 per day in the middle of May 2023,” the DOH said.

As of May 27, only 14 percent or 174 of 1,235 intensive care unit (ICU) beds dedicated for Covid-19 were occupied. Only 15 percent or 1,601 of 10,910 Covid-19 beds were occupied.

Based on hospital reports in the DOH Data Collect application, severe and critical Covid-19 cases admitted in various hospitals total to only 185 or 10 percent of the total admissions.

The DOH said it is operating “with the assumption that the flagged Omicron sub variants are already likely in the country.”

“Recent sequencing data by the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) confirms this, with the identification of 30 cases of JN.1, 2 cases of JN.1.8, and 2 cases of KP.2,” it said.

“Their detection (along with the slow increase in the number of new cases and the plateau in number of occupied Covid-19 beds) aligns with the international observation that the new variants under monitoring continue to be clinically mild and manageable,” it said.

The earliest sample collection date for JN.1 in the Philippines is November 2023.

Meanwhile, the earliest sample collection date for KP.2 is May 2024.

“It may be likely that there are earlier KP.2 cases, but because of limited sequencing we have not detected and reported this earlier,” the DOH said.

The four variants under monitoring (VUM) are JN.1.7, JN.1.18, KP.2, and KP.3.

All of these are descendants of JN.1. Variants KP.2 and KP.3 are the proper names of what is informally known as “FLiRT” variants.

FLiRT is a nickname coined by some researchers to describe amino acid changes in the Covid-19 virus’ spike protein, specifically from phenylalanine (F) to leucine (L) at position 456, and from arginine (R) to threonine (T) at position 346.

However, the DOH said it avoids using “FLiRT” to refer to the sub variants, as the term is informal and casual, and “using it might result in a miscommunication of health risk.”

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