Gov’t OKs P295M budget for UP-PGC expansion in Visayas, Mindanao
MANILA, Philippines — The government has approved the P295.7 million budget needed for the expansion of the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) in the Visayas and Mindanao, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.
In a statement, the DOH said it is now closer to strengthening the country’s bio-surveillance capacity with the approval of the budget.
“We will continue to assist the UP-PGC in any way we can. Additionally, we could not have done this without the help of the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) who is kind enough to provide us with this budget,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
“By strengthening the country’s biosurveillance capacity, we hope to prevent future outbreaks of diseases in the Philippines,” he added.
The UP-PGC is currently able to sequence only around 750 COVID-19 samples per week to detect variants of concern (VOCs). The DOH said logistical limitations have been a challenge for regions to regularly send samples to Manila.
Aside from detecting COVID-19 variants, genomic biosurveillance plays a big role in determining the causes of outbreaks, tracking how a virus is transmitted, and complementing disease surveillance in guiding public health response, according to DOH.
Genome sequencing can also be used to determine if the variants are causing the spikes in cases in certain areas and if there are already local transmissions of the variants, the DOH added.
Based on the DOH report as of August 21, the PGC has so far detected 1,273 Delta variant cases, 2,322 Alpha variant cases, 2,588 Beta variant cases, two Gamma variant cases, and 388 cases of the P.3 variant in the country. The first four variants are called VOCs while the P.3 variant was listed under “alerts for further monitoring” by the World Health Organization.
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