Home News New Covid-19 Variants FLiRT: An Ongoing Concern

New Covid-19 Variants FLiRT: An Ongoing Concern

by Ammara Villanueva

Despite hopes of a pandemic resolution, new Covid-19 FLiRT variants continue to emerge, necessitating vigilance. This article provides a comprehensive overview of recent developments concerning Covid-19 variants and their implications.

Recent Observations and Trends

The Department of Health (DOH) reported a minor increase in Covid-19 cases in the Philippines for May 2024. Notably, this rise remains within low-risk parameters for all regions, eliminating the need for travel restrictions at this time. However, stringent monitoring at Philippine ports of entry continues to detect and manage new variants.

Identified Variants: JN.1.18, KP.2, and KP.3

The new variants, JN.1.18, KP.2, and KP.3, are descendants of the JN.1 variant, identified as a “variant of interest” by the DOH in December. These variants collectively form the acronym FLiRT, based on the amino acids phenylalanine (F), leucine (L), arginine (R), and threonine (T), which are pivotal in the mutation process of this strain.

Global and Regional Case Analysis

Singapore Case Surge

Singapore has reported a notable increase in Covid-19 cases, with over 25,900 cases from May 5 to 11, a significant rise from the previous week's 13,700 cases. The KP.1 and KP.2 variants are responsible for approximately two-thirds of these cases. The peak of this wave is anticipated within two weeks, suggesting a subsequent decline. Importantly, no link has been established between this surge and the current situation in the Philippines.

WHO Insights on Variant Severity

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that there is no current evidence indicating that the KP.1 and KP.2 variants lead to severe or critical Covid-19 conditions.

Understanding the Omicron Strain and its Evolution

Omicron Strain Lineage

The new variants belong to the Omicron strain, first reported in November 2021. Omicron's initial variants, such as BA.1 to BA.5 and XBB.1.16, have been noted for their rapid spread. The JN.1 variant traces its lineage through the Omicron BA.2.86 Pirola variant. Although Omicron variants tend to cause milder symptoms, their rapid transmission remains a significant concern.

Virus Mutation Mechanisms

Viruses adapt and evolve, becoming more resistant to countermeasures, spreading more efficiently, or potentially causing more severe outcomes. A Covid-19 variant becomes a “variant of interest” if it exhibits heightened transmissibility, resistance, or severity.

Current Measures and Recommendations

Vaccination and Preventative Measures

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) emphasizes that existing vaccines continue to provide substantial resistance against new Covid-19 strains and variants. The DOH advises maintaining protective measures such as proper mask usage, hand hygiene, avoiding crowded spaces, and ensuring adequate ventilation.

Current Case Statistics in the Philippines

From May 7 to 13, the Philippines reported 877 new Covid-19 cases and five deaths between April 30 and May 13. Covid facility utilization remains low, with 11% of ICU beds and 13% of non-ICU beds occupied as of May 12. Severe and critical cases admitted to hospitals stand at 116.


Continuous monitoring and adherence to preventative measures are essential as new Covid-19 variants emerge. Staying informed and vigilant will help mitigate the impact of these variants and manage the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic.

graph TD A[New Covid-19 Variants] --> B[Variants JN.1.18, KP.2, KP.3] B --> C[Omicron Strain] C --> D[Initial Variants: BA.1 to BA.5, XBB.1.16] D --> E[Current Lineage: JN.1 via BA.2.86 Pirola] F[Preventative Measures] --> G[Vaccination] F --> H[Proper Mask Usage] F --> I[Hand Hygiene] F --> J[Avoid Crowds] F --> K[Ensure Good Ventilation]

By maintaining these practices and staying updated on variant developments, we can continue to protect public health and work towards overcoming the pandemic.

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