Department of Health Technical Advisory Group member Dr. Edsel Salvaña

MANILA – There is no proof showing that the Omicron BQ.1 subvariant causes more severe type of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), an infectious disease expert said Monday.

In a televised public briefing, Department of Health (DOH) Technical Advisory Group member Dr. Edsel Salvaña described the BQ.1 subvariant as an “offspring” of the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron.

“At nakikita nila, mayroon na naman itong taglay na additional mutations na maaaring makapag-increase ng kaniyang immune escape against infections, sa ating mga vaccines, ngunit wala namang ebidensiya na mas severe ito (They see that this has additional mutations that can increase its immune escape against infections, against vaccines, but there’s no evidence that this is more severe),” he said.

In the United States, reports show that BQ.1 and its mutation BQ.1.1 are somehow replacing the dominant Omicron BA.5 subvariant due to their survival advantage.

Health experts say vaccines remain the best protection as the coronavirus is expected to mutate and cause infections.

“Kung sakali man na magdulot ng mas mataas na number of cases ay hindi gaano kalaki, hindi naman siguro lalampas iyon ng (In case it would bring higher number of cases, it won’t be that big, not more than) 5,000 cases,” Salvaña said.

As the country is heading toward endemicity, he noted that healthcare utilization capacity is the main factor to be monitored.

“Iyong number of cases ay maaaring umakyat pero karamihan doon ay magiging mild as long as mataas ang antas ng pagbabakuna, at iyong paggamit ng ating boosters and of course at least natutuwa ako, nakikita ko marami pa rin ang gumagamit ng masks (The number of cases may go up, but most of them would be mild as long as there is high vaccination coverage and the boosters of course, at least I’m happy to see many are still using masks),” he added.

Last week, the DOH confirmed the detection of the first 14 cases of the Omicron BQ.1 subvariant in the country. Thirteen of them are local cases from the Cordillera, Ilocos and Central Visayas regions, as well as the National Capital Region. The details of the other case are yet to be disclosed by the DOH. (PNA)