Public need not be alarmed by new Covid-19 variants – health expert

2024 May 23

WAITING FOR ORDERS. Delivery riders sit beside a Covid-19-themed wall graffiti of a man wearing a face mask, while waiting for orders from customers at Teacher’s Village in Quezon City on April 18, 2023. Infectious disease expert Rontgene Solante on Thursday (May 23, 2024) said new Covid-29 variants KP.2 and KP.3 present mild respiratory tract symptoms only and advised the vulnerable population to wear face masks in crowded places to avoid severe infection.

MANILA – A health expert said Thursday the public need not be alarmed by the new Covid-19 variants KP.2 and KP.3 as these pose low health risks.

Infectious disease expert and Philippine College of Physicians president Rontgene Solante said the so-called “FLiRT” variants, which are mutations of the JN.1 variant, are not similar to Delta or Alpha with high risk for hospitalization.

“These new strains are usually upper respiratory tract manifestations — slight cough, slight sore throat, phlegm, sometimes body pains. They are mostly mild and self-limiting symptoms,” he said in a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon interview.

Referring to the increase of Covid-19 cases in Singapore due to these variants, Solante said such an event is only a “temporary uptick” and would not continue.

“Unang una, hindi po tayo dapat maalarma, because this is just an ordinary uptick, ibig sabihin hindi ito tutuloy-tuloy na lumalago ang infection, hindi gaya nung 2021 or 2020 (We need not be alarmed, because this is just an ordinary uptick, it means the infection will not grow continuously, unlike last 2021 or 2020),” he said.

However, Filipinos still need to be cautious about getting Covid-19 as mild symptoms can turn into severe particularly among the elderly and the immunocompromised.

While most Filipinos are fully-vaccinated against Covid-19, Solante said everyone is now at risk of being infected by the new variants as the previous jabs do not provide protection against them.

“In fact there are newly formulated, updated vaccines already, but they are not available in the Philippines,” he said.

Earlier, the Department of Health reported 877 new Covid-19 cases from May 7 to 13, 2024, with an average of 125 cases reported per day. Five deaths were recorded between April 30 and May 13.

As of May 12, only 11 percent or 119 out of 1,117 dedicated Covid-19 intensive care unit (ICU) beds were occupied. Only 1,238 or 13 percent of dedicated Covid-19 non-ICU beds were used.

Solante advised everyone to wear face masks properly especially in crowded places.

He also advised those with symptoms of respiratory illness to rest at home and consult a physician immediately to prevent possible increase of Covid-19 infections.

Ma. Teresa Montemayor (PNA)