DOH confirms local transmission of ‘Arcturus’ strain in W. Visayas

By John Noel E. Herrera

The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the local spread of COVID-19 Omicron XBB.1.16 subvariant, or “Arcturus” in Western Visayas, following three additional cases reported in the region.

DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire explained that the lack of linkages among XBB.1.16 or Arcturus cases has led the department to declare its local transmission.

“We think, based on what we are seeing that there is already no linkages to any of these cases that we had been identifying, there is a local transmission of Arcturus just like any of the different variants or the Omicron variant in the country,” Vergeire said in a press briefing.

DOH-6 medical officer IV Dr. Jane Juanico also said that three additional cases in the region were reported in Iloilo, Guimaras, and Bacolod City.

Their investigation revealed that all the infected individuals were fully vaccinated, asymptomatic, and have already recovered.

Based on DOH’s risk assessment, the Arcturus subvariant is more transmissible, but it poses lower risks to infected people.

In April 2023, DOH announced that the first case of Arcturus in the Philippines was recorded in Iloilo province.

The department then announced last April 26, 2023 that the infected individual was asymptomatic and has already recovered.

Meanwhile, Juanico also admitted that there is a gradual spike in cases in the region, but the severity of the virus is still low.

“We can say nga nagdamo ang kaso, but the severity, especially sa pag-utilize sang aton healthcare units, we are still low. So, meaning even if may mga (Arturus) cases kita, ini sila tanan asymptomatic, that’s why low risk gyapon,” she said.

“Even if may ara kita gina-expect nga magtaas ang kaso naton, definitely our LGUs (Local Government Units), hospitals, ICUs (intensive care unit) are still on top man gyapon and ready to address any possible surge,” Juanico added.

Data from DOH-6, as of May 17, 2023, indicated that the region has 2,008 active COVID-19 cases, which include 1,108 cases in Iloilo; 458 cases in Negros Occidental; 124 in Iloilo City; 119 in Aklan; 98 cases in Bacolod City; 39 cases in Capiz; 33 in Antique, and 29 cases in Guimaras.

Juanico also assured the public that they can remain safe from the local transmission of the subvariant if they continue practicing available layers of protection against COVID-19, such as the wearing of face masks.

She also urged the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as it is the best long-term protection against any variant of the virus and its complications.