Philippines detects 18 cases of new COVID-19 variant JN.1

Gaea Katreena Cabico – Philstar.com

December 24, 2023 | 3:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health said Sunday that it has detected 18 cases of JN.1, a form of Omicron classified by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest.”

Despite the detection of a new COVID-19 variant, the DOH stressed that “there has been no significant increase in the number or severity of cases overall.”

It added that all COVID-19 patients with JN.1 have recovered, with the earliest sample collected on November 16 and the most recent on December 3. 

“It is another Omicron subvariant with no evidence of increased severity or unusual clinical presentation. There is also no evidence that it spreads faster,” the DOH said. 

Last week, the WHO classified JN.1 as a separate variant of interest from its parent lineage BA.2.86. 

According to the WHO, JN.1 may possess some antigenic advantage evading previous immunity, but available evidence suggests the new Omicron subvariant poses low risks to public health.

“While there is a rapid increase in JN.1 infections, and likely increase in cases, available limited evidence does not suggest that the associated disease severity is higher as compared to other circulating variants,” it said. 

Layers of protection

The health department urged Filipinos to “use multiple layers of protection”—masking, ensuring good ventilation, covering coughs, and getting vaccinated. 

“Doing so will help avoid an increase in influenza-like and other respiratory illnesses due to all the gatherings,” it said.

The DOH reported last week that hospital admissions remained low despite an uptick in COVID-19 infections. 

Currently, there are around 5,568 active COVID-19 cases. More than four million Filipinos have recovered from the respiratory illness since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, while over 66,000 have died. 


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