New COVID subvariants loom over the holiday season

| Written by Deina Blancaflor

As the holiday season approaches, it is expected that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country will once again spike. Omicron continues to be the dominant variant, and unfortunately, new subvariants have cropped up anew: XBB, which is a recombinant of BJ.1 (of the BA2.10.1 sublineage) and BM.1.1.1 (of the BA.2.75 sublineage); and BQ.1.1, a descendant of the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron. 

There are a little over four million COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Currently, the proportion of individuals testing positive for COVID-19, at least in Metro Manila and several provinces, has decreased to ten percent. In contrast, rates in Isabela, Benguet, Cebu, and Negros Occidental have increased. These new subvariants, associated with significant immune escape and antibody evasion, may cause breakthrough infections. Hospital cases are now being closely monitored in case of another COVID surge.

What are the main characteristics of these new Omicron subvariants? How can the country prevent another surge, especially with the holidays? What are the country’s latest updates on vaccination and infection regarding COVID-19? 

This Friday, November 4, from 12nn to 2 pm, the University of the Philippines (UP), in partnership with UP Manila National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH), National Telehealth Center (NTC), and cooperation with UP Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), would like to invite you to join the fight against C.O.V.I.D—current COVID-19 problems, other outbreaks, viruses, infections, and disasters.

In this new episode of the “Stop C.O.V.I.D. Deaths” webinar series, titled “BAGO NA NAMAN? XBB and BQ.1., Alamin!”, familiar faces will be explaining these new subvariants and how everyone can further protect themselves from the virus.

Dr. Franco Felizarta, an infectious disease specialist, based in California, will provide everything we need to know about the variant based on current scientific studies.

Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, pediatric infectious diseases specialist from UP-PGH, will share additional information on what we can do to protect ourselves vis-à-vis the new policies that have been issued in recent weeks.

Dr. Stella Marie Jose, Deputy Director for Health Operations at UP-PGH, will deliver the synthesis and closing remarks.

Register here and catch our weekly live tweets and streams via the UP System Twitter account, TVUP’s YouTube channel, and Facebook page.

The award-winning UP “Stop COVID Deaths” Webinar Series is the Philippines’ first and only frontline-focused medical webinar series. It pioneered the discussion, dissemination, and adoption of knowledge on COVID-19 treatment and management. Follow our accounts to stay connected with your credible online community.