Nograles: P362M allocated for intensified bio-surveillance vs new COVID variants

Published February 4, 2021, 12:16 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government has set aside P362 million for the intensified genomic surveillance system to better know the coronavirus “enemy” and improve its pandemic response.

The funding allocation for bio-surveillance has approved in line with the government’s moves to respond to the constantly changing coronavirus, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government continues to take steps to adapt and appropriately respond to this evolving outbreak. With different strains and variants of the Covid-19 virus now emerging, the Department of Health will be mobilizing resources and investing in genomic biosurveillance,” he said during a televised press briefing Thursday.

Nograles explained that the health department’s biosurviellance would strengthen and improve the country’s overall Covid-19 response.

He said the whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics analysis of the virus would allowed better understanding of the evolution of the virus across geographical and time scales, as well as the impact of specific mutation on viral properties, including infectiousness and virulence.

“As Sun Tzu says in the Art of War, we must know our enemy,” the Cabinet Secretary said.

He said genomic biosurveillance would be critical input for the government’s vaccine deployment program. Understanding the various and its possible mutations would enable the government to implement a more responsive vaccination program, execute other existing health interventions, and prepare for future pandemics. “A total of P362 million will be allocated for this initiative,” he added.

Last month, health authorities detected the entry of the more infectious coronavirus variant, that was first spotted in the United Kingdom, in the country. The government has stepped up biosurveillance and border control efforts after several cases of the new COVID variant were reported.

The discovery of the new coronavirus variant comes ahead of the government’s planned vaccination program. Millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines have been secured to help protect Filipinos from the deadly illness. Health workers, seniors, poor citizens, and uniformed personnel will be given priority in vaccination drive as soon as the supplies arrive in the country.