Boost for genome sequencing

THE country’s genome sequencing capacity will be further bolstered starting August, as the viral variants of concern (VOC) pose a threat to Malaysia’s recovery efforts.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said a consortium comprising several institutions would receive a RM3mil allocation to boost the country’s capacity in carrying out genome sequencing of Covid-19 samples.

The consortium, he said, would aim to sequence 3,000 samples in three months.

“We are doing this so that the portion of samples that are carried out for genome sequencing will exceed 1% of all positive cases,” he told the House in his Covid-19 briefing.

Genome sequencing is a process in which a virus sample of a Covid-19 patient is analysed to detect if there are any new mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or identify which variant it is.

In comparison, he said the genome sequencing capacity in Asean countries were as follows: Singapore (6%), Thailand (0.43%), Vietnam (0.31%), Indonesia (0.11%) and Cambodia (0.82%).

Malaysia currently has sequenced 0.15% of positive cases, according to Gisaid, an open-access platform facilitating worldwide sharing of data on influenza viruses.

Dr Adham said the ministry had ramped up its testing capacity by more than 1,000% compared to March last year.

“There are 51 government laboratories and 43 private laboratories which have the capability of carrying out RT-PCR tests, with a daily capacity of 122,603 tests, compared to 6,210 daily tests in March 2020, which is a 1,874% increase,” he said.

On the country’s healthcare capacity, he said there were 180 Covid-19 Assessment Centres (CACs) set up, adding that virtual CACs were also established to serve residents in Greater Klang Valley area.

On average, he said Klang Valley CACs each handled about 700 to 3,000 patients daily, while the CACs in other states saw about 100 to 500 patients daily.

Dr Adham said in total, 221 hospitals were managing Covid-19 cases.

“For Covid-19 hospitals, to date, there are 104 out of 146 Health Ministry hospitals, six teaching university hospitals, 112 private hospitals and one Armed Forces hospital.“A total of 11 hospitals under the ministry are fully dedicated to treating Covid-19 patients, while the rest are a hybrid which also treat non-Covid patients,” he said.

Modular ICUs, he said, would be added in hospitals with high case loads such as Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Hospital Selayang, Hospital Tuanku Jaafar, Hospital Tawau and Hospital Sibu.

Dr Adham also said digital technology had been utilised in the fight against the pandemic, such as using MySejahtera data to identify Covid-19 cases.

“As of July 26, MySejahtera has 27.7 million active users, with 2.44 million premises having registered.

“It has recorded 6.7 billion cumulative check-ins to registered premises using the QR code, with an average of 19.3 million check-ins daily.

“The MySejahtera app is also used to detect Covid-19 cases via the health status self-assessment by users, and also through close contact-tracing via the checking of data by the district Health Office,” he said.

Dr Adham said the Vaccine Management System, which tracks the delivery of Covid-19 vaccine stock, was also integrated with MySejahtera data to monitor the “movement” of vaccines from supplier to recipients.

Meanwhile, the minister assured that disciplinary action would not be taken against contract doctors who participated in the nationwide walkout on Monday.

He said the government’s offer to allow contract medical officers to extend their term for another two years was to allow more time for the ministry to table the relevant amendments to the Pensions Act.

“All contract doctors in the Health Ministry’s system can be absorbed into permanent positions and we can help them. But we need MPs’ support to amend the Pensions Act and the Public Service Act,” he said.

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Dewan Rakyat , genome , covid-19 , Adham Baba


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