Gov't urged: Tighten border control, tap more labs to sequence COVID-19 variants

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — The Philippines must continue to tighten its borders and consider tapping more laboratories that could conduct genome sequencing to control the transmission of the new variants of COVID-19, an infectious disease expert said Monday.

Dr. Rontgene Solante, head of San Lazaro Hospital-Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine department, told CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday that the government must act as if most COVID-19 cases in the country are already variant-driven, after listing at least 12 cases of the "double-mutant" variant first detected in India.

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"I'm not surprised that anybody coming from other countries will be bringing in this variant, whether it’s India or any other variants of concern. That’s the reason why border control is really important at this point in time," Solante said.

Solante also raised concern over the country's slow pace of genome sequencing and ability to detect COVID-19 variants.

"To tell you frankly, I don't think we're doing enough because just like any other countries in Asia, this is usually the problem because it requires more resources, more laboratories. Personnel or manpower is also something we have to address," he added.

Solante, who is also a member of the vaccine expert panel, said the government should further emphasize how to prevent the continued transmission of COVID variants in the country.

Aside from the Philippine Genome Center and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health, other laboratories capable of sequencing COVID-19 samples would be of great help, Solante stressed.

Apart from the 12 cases of B.1.617.2 variant from India, the Health Department reported over the weekend 13 new cases of the B.1.1.7 variant from the United Kingdom, seven more cases of the B.1.351 variant from South Africa, and one new case of the P3 variant discovered in the country.