Better biosurveillance, genome sequencing capabilities needed amid Omicron threat — Angara
MANILA, Philippines — The threat imposed by the COVID-19 Omicron variant underscores the need to improve the biosurveillance and genome sequencing capabilities of the country, Senator Sonny Angara said Monday.
Angara, who earlier sought an inquiry into the current state of COVID-19 biosurveillance and genome sequencing in the country, said that the public should remain vigilant and not be complacent as more Omicron variant cases are being detected in other countries.
“There is little information available on the Omicron variant at this time but the health experts are one in treating this as a variant of concern. We should remain vigilant and not be complacent especially now that we have started to open up our economy and are allowing more people to move around more freely in public,” Angara said in a statement.
“But what is more critical now is our ability to detect these new variants and to come up with the necessary precautions with haste,” he added.
Citing the Department of Health (DOH), Angara pointed out that several areas in the country such as the Bicol region, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are having difficulty in submitting COVID-19 samples for genome sequencing due to transportation issues and the lack of laboratories.
“The faster our health authorities will be able to detect, identify and track these cases with the new variants of COVID, including Omicron, the higher our chances of preventing its transmission in our shores and in sustaining our efforts to revive the economy,” Angara said.
Angara, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said that the upper chamber provided a substantial increase in the epidemiology and surveillance program of the DOH under the 2022 budget.
The senator likewise filed Senate Resolution No. 759 back in June this year 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.
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