Angara: Ramp up biosurveillance and genome sequencing to control the spread of new COVID-19 variants

Posted on: Thu, 08/05/2021 - 07:03 By: admin
Angara: Ramp up biosurveillance and genome sequencing to control the spread of new COVID-19 variants

With more cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 being recorded in the country, Senator Sonny Angara today called on the authorities to be more proactive in its efforts to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Angara aired his concern over the data showing how the Delta variant is highly contagious and could lead to outbreaks if not identified and controlled immediately.

“We are at the point where we are slowly opening up our economy and people are eager to get their lives back to normal. But this new variant of COVID is threatening to disrupt our progress so we should not let our guard down,” Angara said.

The Senator said the Philippines cannot afford to have a wait and see attitude with the Delta variant because when the virus spreads, it will be fast and controlling it then will be very difficult.

“What we have seen in Indonesia is alarming and the same is taking place in other parts of the world. We cannot afford to be complacent now. Let’s do everything possible to prepare for the worst case scenario and prevent this from happening,” Angara said.

One of the ways to prevent another outbreak in the country is through genomic sequencing or surveillance, which Angara said is already being done by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) but at a very low rate.

At present, the country evaluates a mere 750 samples per week or less than one percent of the recorded cases nationwide. This is way below the ideal sequencing rate of five percent as indicated by the PGC itself.

The DOH has also reported that Regions V (Bicol), VIII (Eastern Visayas), IX (Zamboanga Peninsula), and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are having difficulties in submitting COVID-19 samples for genome sequencing due to transportation issues and the lack of sufficient laboratories.

A total of 35 cases of the Delta variant have been detected in the country, three of which have died, according to the Department of Health.

With the emergence of these new COVID-19 variants, genomic research becomes even more crucial in the efforts to understand their unique characteristics, its transmissibility and risk to particular sectors of the population.

The World Health Organization has stated that the rapid generation and sharing of virus genomic sequences provides vital information on the transmission of the new variants and for the fine tuning of the clinical and epidemiological strategies being undertaken.

Angara has filed Senate Resolution 759 to look into the current state of COVID-19 biosurveillance and genome sequencing in the country in order to improve the identification and classification of new COVID-19 variants and consequently, strengthen the country’s COVID-19 response.

“Improving our genome sequencing and biosurveillance capabilities would also be very useful in our responses to future epidemics. Our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we should always be prepared from day one and not wait until it’s too late to react,” Angara said.

“We should also accelerate the implementation of our vaccination program so that more Filipinos will be protected, especially from severe ailments brought about by COVID-19 and its variants. We also want to remind our people to continue wearing their face masks while outside their homes even if they are already fully vaccinated,” Angara added.