Philippines’ DOH Warns of Highly Transmissible New Covid-19 FLiRT Subvariants

covid flirt

The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines has announced the potential presence of new Covid-19 subvariants, known as FLiRT, within the country.

These subvariants are highly transmissible, raising concerns about their impact on public health.

Detection Efforts

The University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine are conducting genome sequencing to confirm the presence of FLiRT variants. This effort is crucial in identifying and understanding the spread of these new variants.

Characteristics of FLiRT Variants

The FLiRT variants include a set of subvariants like XBB.1.16, XBB.1.9.1, and XBB.2.3. They are distinguished by mutations in the virus’s spike protein. These mutations enhance the virus’s ability to bind to human cells, making it more transmissible. There is concern that these variants may partially evade immunity from previous infections or vaccinations. However, experts still expect current vaccines to offer protection against severe disease.

Enhanced Transmissibility

The mutations present in FLiRT variants allow for easier and faster transmission from person to person. This characteristic can cause rapid outbreaks, especially in areas with low vaccination rates or where people do not strictly follow public health measures.

Immune Evasion

FLiRT variants have shown some ability to evade immunity provided by previous infections and vaccinations. This evasion poses a risk of reinfection and may necessitate updates to existing vaccines to maintain their efficacy.

Government Response

The DOH is closely monitoring the situation and is prepared to implement necessary measures to curb the spread of these variants. Enhanced surveillance and testing protocols are part of the strategy to manage this potential threat. The government emphasises the importance of early detection and rapid response to prevent widespread transmission.

Preparedness Measures

Consequently, the government has ramped up its preparedness by increasing healthcare capacity, ensuring the availability of medical supplies, and reinforcing public health messaging. Hospitals are on alert to manage potential surges in COVID-19 cases, and authorities are preparing isolation facilities to handle new patients.

Public Communication

Clear and consistent communication from the DOH aims to keep the public informed about the risks associated with FLiRT variants. Various media channels disseminate regular updates on case numbers, variant detection, and health advisories.

Public Health Advisory

The DOH urges the public to remain vigilant and continue following health protocols, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and getting vaccinated. These measures are essential in preventing the spread of Covid-19 and its variants. The DOH also advises the public to stay informed about updates from health authorities and to seek medical attention if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Vaccination Campaigns

Ongoing vaccination campaigns aim to increase coverage, especially among vulnerable populations. Authorities are also promoting booster shots to enhance immunity against potential variant infections.

Personal Protective Measures

The public is reminded of the importance of personal protective measures such as wearing masks, hand hygiene, and avoiding crowded places. These practices remain effective in reducing transmission rates.

Impact on Public Health

The potential presence of FLiRT variants poses a significant challenge to public health efforts. Health officials are particularly concerned about the possible increase in Covid-19 cases and the strain it could place on the healthcare system. The DOH stresses the need for continued cooperation from the public to mitigate the impact of these variants.


The emergence of the FLiRT variants underscores the ongoing challenges in the fight against Covid-19. Therefore, the DOH’s proactive approach to monitoring and addressing these variants is vital in safeguarding public health. Continued vigilance and adherence to health protocols are also crucial in managing the spread of these highly transmissible subvariants.

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