DOH allots P295M to set up genome labs in Visayas, Mindanao

By: Patricia Denise Chiu - Inquirer.net | August 28,2021 - 09:43 AM

Facade of the DOH main office in Manila. | INQUIRER.net file photo

The Department of Health (DOH) said the government had agreed to fund the expansion of the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) in the Visayas and Mindanao.

In a statement on Friday, the DOH said a cumulative amount of P295.7 million would be allotted for two more centers to boost the country’s genome sequencing capabilities needed to track and evaluate the spread of the various coronavirus variants, such as the more contagious Delta variant.

At present, only the UP-PGC’s Manila lab can conduct bio-surveillance.

In total, the department expects to sequence 1,500 samples weekly at the UP-PGC lab and 350 samples each in the Visayas and Mindanao labs once these two are operational.

“The availability of highly-technical equipment and tools for the whole genome sequencing in Visayas and Mindanao is beneficial for the regions’ current COVID-19 response and for surveillance of other diseases,” the DOH said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said DOH regional offices face logistical challenges when sending samples to Metro Manila for genome sequencing.

Special risk allowance

Dr. Alethea De Guzman, director of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, noted in a press briefing on Thursday that there remained no confirmed Delta variant cases in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), but that this may be due to the dearth of samples coming from that region.

Meanwhile, Vergeire also said the DOH was seeking additional funds to pay the special risk allowance (SRA) of some 17,000 health workers.

“We submitted a new request to the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) for 17,670 healthcare workers who have submitted their requirements,” Vergeire said, adding that this is apart from the P311 million that DBM released earlier this week for the SRA of some 20,000 health workers.

She noted that the health workers who submitted their documents were new hires with contracts until the end of 2021.

Virus case update

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said the SRA would be distributed among qualified health workers until the end of August.

An additional 17,447 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the country on Friday, the second highest single day tally after the 18,332 cases logged on Aug. 23.

On Aug. 20, the daily tally reached 17,231 cases, the highest since the pandemic began last year.

Friday’s numbers brought the country’s total coronavirus cases to 1,926,461, of which 142,531 are active.

Majority or 96.2 percent of those active cases are mild, 1.1 percent are asymptomatic, 0.96 percent are moderate, 0.6 percent are critical and 1.1 percent are severe.

Another 6,771 patients have recovered, bringing the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 1,741,089.

However, 113 have died, pushing the fatality count to 32,841.

The DOH said 186 duplicates were removed from the total case count, while 47 cases previously tagged as recoveries were reclassified as deaths following final validation.

Meanwhile, the positivity rate of the virus rose to 26.1 percent. This means that of the 70,396 individuals tested on Wednesday, 18,373 or more than one in four tested positive for COVID-19.

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TAGS: DOH, Mindanao, P295 million, set up genome labs, Visayas

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