Department of Health (DOH) Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire on Tuesday confirmed the local transmission of Omicron variant XBB.1.16, also known as Arcturus, after three more cases were recently detected in Western Visayas with no linkages to international cases or no known history of exposure.
“Also we had been discussing with our experts since last week and we think, based what we are seeing, there is already no linkage to any of these cases that we had been identifying that there is already a local transmission of this Arcturus,” Vergeire said in a media forum.
However, Vergeire said, just like any of the different subvariants or Omicron variant in the country, the public has nothing to fear.
Vergeire said that the public would be protected if the minimum public health standards will be strictly observed.
“Continue to wear face masks, isolate when manifesting symptoms…,” she said as she encouraged the public to get vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19.
There are now four cases of XBB.1.16 in the country based on the latest biosurveillance report of the DOH from April 26 to May 6.
Earlier, the DOH said that the first case of XBB.1.16 was detected in Iloilo Province and was asymptomatic.
The case has already recovered.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), XBB.1.16 is a descendent lineage of XBB, a recombinant of two BA.2 descendent lineages.
XBB.1.16 was first reported on January 9, 2023, and designated a variant under monitoring (VUM) on March 22, 2023.
On April 17, 2023, XBB.1.16 was designated a variant of interest (VOI). XBB.1.16 has a similar genetic profile as the VOI XBB.1.5, with the additional E180V and K478R amino acid mutations in the spike protein compared to their parent XBB.1.