PH Genome Center to boost sequencing efforts amid COVID-19 variant threats

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 28) — The Philippine Genome Center is preparing to boost its sequencing efforts in Metro Manila and in other parts of the country to detect COVID-19 variants, the center's executive director Cynthia Saloma said Monday.

Saloma told CNN Philippines' The Source the center will soon be able to conduct at least 40,000 sequences for the whole year because of supply of sequencing kits that have arrived in the country.

Saloma said PGC can currently conduct sequencing on some 750 samples a week. That translates to around 36,000 samples a year.

She added that the center has five machines that can be utilized for the whole genome sequencing, but additional manpower still has to be addressed.

"With increased effort, that can really be scaled up twice and at the same time the turnaround time can probably be improved if we have more facilities, also in different parts of the Philippines able to do this," she added.

"It's really a question of people. And of course, there are also moves, we will share with you as soon as they become concrete, to increase the capability of the country for whole genome sequencing, not only here in Manila but in other areas of the Philippines," Saloma said.

PGC said 17 cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant (B.1.617.2) that first emerged in India have so far been discovered in the country. All of these cases were from returning Filipino travelers.

The national government continues to monitor developments on other COVID-19 variants, especially the Delta Plus mutation (B.1.617.2.1) which has already been reported in other countries. No case has been detected in the Philippines yet, Saloma said.

She advised the public to strictly observe health protocols and complete their COVID-19 shots. She also urged the national government to strengthen its border control to avoid transmission.