FOURTEEN cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) Omicron subvariant BQ.1 have been detected in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

In a press conference, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reported that the country has already detected BQ.1 cases in the last whole genome sequencing result.

"This (BQ.1) subvariant of the Omicron is already in the country," said Vergeire.

Data from the DOH showed that 14 BQ.1 cases have already been detected in the Philippines, as of November 18.

Of the 14 cases, a total of 13 were local cases detected in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Calabarzon, Central Visayas and National Capital Region.

BQ.1, which is considered as a BA.5 sub-lineage, has been tagged as a variant of interest (VOI) by the World Health Organization.

"It is said to be more transmissible, highly immunoevasive compared to other Omicron subvariants," said Vergeire.

Since its detection in October, BQ.1 has risen quickly across Europe and North America.

According to Vergeire, the detection of the latest Omicron subvariant should no longer come as a surprise since mutation is part of the life cycle of a virus.

"They will continue to mutate because it is part of their life cycle. As long as there are hosts, like humans, there is a big chance that the virus will mutate,” the DOH officer-in-charge said.

She reiterated that the safety protocols in the country will remain unchanged despite the detection of the new subvariant.

"Our protocols to protect ourselves will remain the same: minimum public health standards and getting vaccinated, especially against these variants," said Vergeire. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)