Biosurveillance survey urged to detect new Covid-19 variant

IATF Chief Implementer for the Visayas Melquiades Feliciano (right) turns over a copy of the Visayas COVID-19 Vaccination Manual to Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson as Undersecretary Anthony Gerard “Jonji” Gonzales looks on.*Richard Mailhan photo

An Inter-Agency Task Force – Visayas official is calling for the conduct of a biosurveillance survey to determine if a new COVID-19 variant is causing the surge in coronavirus cases in Negros Occidental and Bacolod City.

Undersecretary Anthony Gerard “Jonji” Gonzales of the Office of the President told DIGICAST NEGROS Tuesday, May 11, that Negros Occidental and Bacolod City should request the Department of Health (DOH) to conduct the survey.

Gonzales was in Bacolod City with IATF Chief Implementer for the Visayas, retired MGen. Melquiades Feliciano, for the distribution of the Visayas COVID-19 Vaccination Manual to local chief executives of Negros Occidental at rites held at the Negros Residences Monday afternoon, May 10.

Also with them was Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH 7 chief pathologist, who said she was informed by Dr. Emilia Monicimpo, DOH 6 regional director, that 46 COVID-19 samples were sent to the Philippine Genome Center for testing.

Loreche said Monicimpo did not say if the 46 were collected from the entire Region 6, or in Negros Occidental.
Forty-six samples are not enough to determine if there is new variant of concern, Loreche said.

Gonzales said a biosurveillance survey detected the P3 variant in Cebu.

However, even if there is a new variant in the area what is important is that minimum health standards are followed to prevent the spread of the virus, Gonzales and Feliciano said.

Gonzales noted that minimum health standards were not being strictly enforced in Bacolod and Negros Occidental that has apparently caused the surge in local transmissions.

Strict border control and lockdowns are not the solution to the problem of community transmission, he said.
Strict compliance of minimum health standards and community response down to the barangay level need to be enforced, Gonzales said.

It is not remote that what Bacolod and Negros Occidental are facing are a new COVID-19 variant but what is important is community awareness, Feliciano also said.

The spread of COVID-19 all boils down to breaches in health protocols, he said.

Intervention programs should be implemented to prevent these breaches, he said.

Meanwhile, the Visayas COVID-19 Vaccination Manual distributed by Feliciano contains a comprehensive guide in establishing a systematic, orderly and standardized method in the roll out of the vaccines.

“Given the transcendental importance of vaccination, we have to make sure that its implementation must be structured and organized to be able to achieve our desired end, that is to put an end to the COVID crisis in the country,” Lacson said.*

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