Punjab CM approves Rs50mln for gene sequencing equipment

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Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has earmarked Rs50 million so that the provincial health department may place an order for genetic sequencing technology to track the emerging Covid-19 variants.

“Punjab will be the first province to buy a gene-sequencing machine,” Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department Secretary Captain (r) Muhammad Usman Younis said in a press statement.

Currently, only the National Institute of Health in Islamabad has such a machine. Samples from positive patients in Punjab were sent to the federal lab if a reading was required.

On January 4, the National Institute of Health (NIH) had confirmed the presence of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant amongst two individuals who had visited the United Kingdom.

The B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant was confirmed via whole-genome sequencing following preliminary reports of the prevalence of the virus in some travellers.

Since the emergence of the new coronavirus variant in the UK, which was reported during December 2020, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination has required all inbound passengers from the UK to be tested for SARS-CoV-2 on arrival.

It is also of note that the variant virus reported in the UK has also been detected in 31 other countries so far. The preliminary epidemiologic and clinical findings suggest that the B.1.1.7 variant virus may have higher transmissibility but without any evidence of increased severity of illness.

The first cases of the UK variant were confirmed in Sindh on December 29. The Sindh government confirmed the cases in Karachi among passengers who had returned from Britain in the last 12 days, as the authorities launched a gigantic exercise to trace the patients’ contacts