Lack of genome sequencing kits slows down identification of PH COVID-19 samples

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 18 2021 01:46 PM

Lack of genome sequencing kits slows down identification of PH COVID-19 samples 1
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (gray) heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (red), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Photo by NIAID

MANILA - Identification of COVID-19 variants in the Philippines has slowed down in the past weeks due to "logistical issues", the Department of Health said Friday.

For about 2 weeks, the DOH did not report how many individuals were carriers of foreign COVID-19 variants in the Philippines due to the lack of genome sequencing kits, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online press conference.

"Baka by this coming week, baka dumating na 'yung ating supplies... Nagkaroon lang po tayo ng logistical issue," she said.

(Maybe supplies will arrive this coming week... We just encountered some logistical issues.)

"Until the end of the year na 'yan [supply] so we do not see na magkakaroon tayo ng issues by the end of the year," she said.

(These supplies will last until the end of the year so we do not see that we will have issues by the end of the year.)

Most of the genome sequencing kits will be deployed to "clogged areas" where COVID-19 cases remain high, the Undersecretary said.

"There are these areas na talagang ina-identify namin na we should be able to get specimen," she said.

(We have identified areas where we really should get specimens.)

The national government earlier allocated P362 million to boost the country's COVID-19 genome sequencing efforts, which determine if a COVID-19 patient is infected with a more contagious strain of the virus.

In May, the DOH said the Philippines' genome testing capacity is still limited despite the presence of various and more transmissible COVID-19 variants, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Saturday. 

The DOH only runs an average of 750 samples per week to detect the presence of virus variants, Vergeire said in an earlier interview.

Health officials have yet to determine if the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Visayas and Mindanao were driven by the presence of foreign variants.

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