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Better prepared?

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The Department of Health recently confirmed that now COVID variants are causing the recent increases in cases in the country, saying that the Philippine Genome Center has confirmed that a new set of Omicron subvariants are present in the country.

“Recent sequencing data by the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center confirmed this, with the identification of 30 cases of JN.1 and two each of JN.1.18 and KP.2,” DOH said in a statement.

The agency said the earliest sample collection date for JN.1 was November 2023 and May 2024 for KP.2. It said it was likely that there were earlier KP.2 cases in the country, but because of limited sequencing, it was not immediately detected and reported.

The Omicron subvariants form part of the variants under monitoring: JN.1.7, JN.1.18, KP.2, and KP.3, which are all descendants of JN.1. Variants KP.2 and KP.3 are the proper names of what is informally known as “FLiRT” variants.

While it has recorded a slow increase in cases, the DOH said it continues to track COVID case counts and new variants. However, “Data as of May 27 show that all regions remain to be at low risk for COVID,” the agency said.

“The detection (of the new variants) along with the slow increase in the number of new cases aligns with the international observation that the new variants under monitoring continue to be clinically mild and manageable,” DOH added.

The health department said it is closely coordinating with international health authorities in monitoring COVID variants. It also advised the public to continue practicing minimum health protocols to avoid getting sick.

We already know what needs to be done, especially for those who are vulnerable and with co-morbidities. As usual, face masks still prevent the spread of infections, along with hand washing, avoiding crowds, and favoring areas with proper ventilation. Many of us might feel inconvenienced by the need to heighten vigilance and practice these precautions that were automatic just a couple of years ago, but through our experiences, we must surely have understood how such practices are effective in preventing further outbreaks, which could be the case now, as new variants like FLiRT have started popping up.

Those of us who belong to the vulnerable sector, along with those who suspect that their symptoms can be COVID-related, can help themselves and their communities by playing it safe, at least for the next few weeks, so the threat posed by the infectious disease does not unnecessarily affect even more people and drag us back to those dark days of the pandemic.*

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