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UK establishes New Variant Assessment Platform to track Covid-19 mutation across world

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on January 28, 2021 Published on January 28, 2021

Platform to be led by Public Health England working with NHS Test and Trace, academic partners, and WHO’s SARS-CoV-2 Global Laboratory Working Group

The government of the United Kingdom has stated that it will offer its world-leading genomics expertise to keep track of the emergence of the new Covid-19 variants to countries that lack scientific resources, according to an official release.

The Health Secretary of the UK will soon outline his vision for a stronger, more collaborative, and effective global health system, not just in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to ensure the international community is better prepared for future threats, the statement said.

Countries will be offered UK capacity to analyse new strains of the virus through the launch of the New Variant Assessment Platform.

Also read: WHO revises guidelines on how to tackle Covid-19 infection severity

This platform will be led by Public Health England (PHE) working with NHS Test and Trace and academic partners as well as the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) SARS-CoV-2 Global Laboratory Working Group.

This is in tandem with the Prime Minister’s five-point plan, as outlined at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) last year, to protect humanity from another pandemic through a shared approach to global health security.

Experts will work directly on samples provided from abroad or will provide expert advice and support remotely where the partner country already has some capabilities in this area but requests further assistance. The offer could include training and resources as well as personnel and equipment.

Countries will be able to apply for assistance by contacting WHO where an existing channel does not already exist with the UK.

Commenting on the initiative, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock maintained that the New Variant Assessment Platform will help the world better understand this virus, how it spreads and will help boost global capacity to understand coronavirus, so the world better gets prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Also read: Elevated levels of certain type of immune cells in blood cause COVID severity: Study

Dr Isabel Oliver, Director of Public Health England’s National Infection Service, said in an official statement: “We know that the virus will evolve over time and certain mutations could potentially cause the virus to spread faster, make people sicker, or possibly affect how well vaccines work. Genomic testing is crucial to our efforts to control the virus — it allows us to keep an eye on how the virus is changing and to respond before it’s too late.”

The UK government believes that this new initiative will bring Public Health England’s “cutting-edge science” to countries that have little or no ability to sequence and analyse Covid-19 virus strains themselves.

It will also give us a crucial early warning of new variants emerging around the world that might endanger the UK.

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Published on January 28, 2021
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