PH Genome Center exec sees need to retrace COVID samples amid Omicron variant
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Genome Center (PGC) is seeing a need to backtrack COVID-19 samples from early November amid the looming threat of the Omicron variant.
During the National Task Force Against COVID-19 and medical experts’ meeting convened by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, PGC Executive Director Cynthia Saloma said that of the over 18,000 sequenced samples in the country, there was no Omicron variant detected.
“Ngayon naman po kailangan naman nating i-detect itong Omicron if ever it has entered the country. So far po, Mr. President, we have already done about 18,000 whole genome sequences and binalikan po natin ‘yung ating database, wala pa po tayong nakitang ni isang Omicron,” she said.
(Now, we need to detect the Omicron if ever it has entered the country. So far, Mr. President, we have already done about 18,000 whole-genome sequences and we reviewed our database, so far we have not detected even one Omicron variant case.)
“So, going forward po, Mr. President, I think we need to backtrack samples from early November and then going forward all other samples coming into the Philippines. ‘Yung mga positives nating mga samples sa airport and different places of the Philippines kung maipadala sa amin (if it could be sent to us) and we can do more intense sequencing,” she added.
For her part, the National Institute of Health’s Dr. Eva Cutiongco said they plan to encourage laboratories to submit samples, especially those collected from overseas Filipinos.
“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. 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, Mr. President,” Cutiongco said.
(We are continuously being asked if the Omicron variant is detected here. So far, our sequencing results in the Philippine Genome Center show that there is no case yet. But, our plan is to encourage laboratories to submit samples, especially from returning overseas Filipinos.)
The government has ordered a ban on inbound flights from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy until December 15 in a bid to prevent the entry of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
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