The highly transmissible Covid-19 subvariants called FLiRT could have entered the country, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

In a statement, Department of Health spokesman and acting Assistant Secretary Albert Francis Domingo said the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine were doing sequencing efforts to determine the presence of such variants.

“Whether or not sequencing shows variants flagged by global health agencies, the DoH assumes the flagged Omicron sub-variants are already likely here and notes that cases continue to be clinically mild and manageable,” Domingo said.

He added that they had yet to find evidence that the two variants cause severe to critical Covid-19.

Several countries have reported spikes in the number of cases of Omicron subvariants KP.2 and KP.3, known informally as the “FLiRT” variants, which were named for the amino acids found in the spike protein of the virus.

As of May 20, the Philippines remained at low risk for Covid-19, with 202 average cases reported per day, and from May 14 to 20, less than half of the 500 reported during the beginning of 2024, and the 1,750 cases per day in the middle of May 2023.

Severe, critical and intensive care unit Covid-19 admissions as of May 18 were much lower than its level last year, with only 16 reported severe and critical cases during the same reporting week, while 12 deaths had been reported, five of which occurred in the recent two weeks.

Bed utilization remained low, with 12 percent, or 141 out of 1,155 dedicated Covid-19 intensive care unit beds currently occupied, while 14 percent, or 1,435 out of 10,536 available Covid-19 beds across the country, also currently occupied.

Severe and critical Covid-19 admissions were only 9 percent of the total 151 admissions.

Meanwhile, during a hearing of the House of Representatives’ appropriations panel on Wednesday, the Health Department said that it had ample funds to prepare for emerging Covid-19 variants, such as the procurement of updated vaccine doses.

Health Undersecretary Achilles Gerard Bravo confirmed with panel vice chairman Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo if the department had enough funds to buy vaccines amid woes of possible infection spikes due to the new variants.

“If there’s a need to provide something for the emerging Covid variant, we can always make some modifications within our budget,” Bravo told lawmakers.

He added that the DoH was collating all of its savings and continuing appropriations and then would decide which programs would be prioritized, with slow-moving appropriations to be modified and transferred to fast-moving appropriations.