THERE is no evidence yet that the newly detected Omicron subvariant XBF causes more severe symptoms of the coronavirus, Philippine health authorities said on Thursday.

“We see this as a variant that we need to monitor,” Edsel Maurice T. Salvaña, a member of the Health department’s technical advisory group, told a televised news briefing in mixed English and Filipino. “But as of now, there is no evidence yet that suggests it causes severe types of infections.”

He said the country’s high vaccination rate and the use of face masks are still effective in preventing infections.

“What is important is to monitor the capacity rate of our hospitals and to keep our vaccination and boosting rates high,” Mr. Salvaña said.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health (Doh) reported the first case of the new Omicron subvariant XBF in the country. The XBF sample was collected in December 2022 and sequenced on Jan. 28.

The case involved a Filipino senior citizen with no known history of travel who experienced mild symptoms, DoH said. The patient has since recovered.

Two new cases of the Omicron subvariant XBB.15  — the most contagious coronavirus subvariant so far — were also detected, bringing the total to three, the agency said.

The newly detected subvariant was initially flagged for its “increasing prevalence” and had been associated with the recent wave of infections in Australia and Sweden, DoH said.

The Philippines recorded 1,101 COVID cases on Feb. 6 to 12, with the daily average falling by 9% to 157 from a week earlier, DoH said on Monday.

The agency said more than 73 million Filipinos or 94.57% of the target population had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, 21 million of whom received booster shots.

In a report on Feb. 15, the World Health Organization (WHO) said globally, almost 6.7 million new cases were reported on Jan. 16 to Feb. 12, 92% lower than in the past 28 days.  

More than 64,000 deaths were verified during the period, 47% lower than a month earlier.

As of Feb. 12, the coronavirus had sickened more than 755 million and killed about 6.8 million people worldwide.

“Variants are expected to emerge and what’s important is our cases have remained manageable through vaccination and boosters,” DoH said in a Viber message. — John Victor D. Ordoñez