PH Genome Center says it needs to retest samples for COVID Omicron variant

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 30 2021 12:34 AM

MANILA - The Philippine Genome Center has yet to detect the COVID-19 Omicron variant among the samples it has tested, but said it needs to backtrack and retest samples from early November.

PGC Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma said there was no Omicron variant detected from around 18,000 samples they have tested.

"So far we have already done about 18,000 whole genome sequences and binalikan po natin 'yung ating database and wala pa po tayong nakitang ni isang Omicron," she said during Monday's National Task Force Against COVID-19 meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.

(So far we have already done about 18,000 whole genome sequences and we reviewed our database and we didn't find any Omicron variant.)

She, however, admitted that they have to retest samples from those who tested positive upon arrival in the country to ensure that the new variant has not yet entered the Philippines.

"So going forward I think we need to backtrack samples from early November and then going forward, other samples coming in to the Philippines, 'yung mga positives nating samples sa mga airport and different places in the Philippines kung maipadala sa amin (if these can be sent to us), we can do more intense sequencing," Saloma said.

Dr. Eva Cutiongco of the National Institutes of Health also called for more samples from other regions of the Philippines.

"Patuloy po natatanong po kami kung ito po ba ay na-detect na sa atin, ‘yung Omicron. So far po sa mga sequencing results natin sa Philippine Genome Center, hindi pa po siya nade-detect," she said.

(We've been asked whether the Omicron variant has been detected here. So far, based on the sequencing results from the Philippine Genome Center, we have not yet detected it.)

"Subalit, ang amin pong mga plano ngayon ay hikayatin po muli ang mga laboratoryo upang mag-submit po ng mga samples lalo na po galing sa ating mga returning overseas Filipino," Cutiongco added.

(However, we are planning on encouraging laboratories to send more samples especially those coming from returning overseas Filipinos.)

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) placed Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy under the red list effective Nov. 28 until Dec. 15.

South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique were earlier placed in the red list amid the threat of the Omicron variant first reported in the region.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday warned that the entry of the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant is a matter of when, and not if. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) said earlier on Monday that the Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have "severe consequences" in some places. 

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