LAHORE: Punjab will become the first province in Pakistan to acquire a genome sequencing machine, which will help it identify new strains of the coronavirus in the province.
On Thursday, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar approved Rs50 million in funds for the provincial health department to place an order for genetic sequencing technology.
“Punjab will be the first province to buy a gene sequencing machine,” said Captain (r) Muhammad Usman Younis, secretary of the primary and secondary healthcare department, in a press statement.
The machine will allow investigation of what variants of the virus are causing deaths in the second wave of the pandemic, the statement said.
Prior to this, only the Islamabad-based National Institute of Health had a gene sequencing machine and samples collected from positive patients in Punjab had to be sent to the federal laboratory for a reading.
Globally, scientists have identified three variants of the deadly coronavirus, which were first detected in England, South Africa and Brazil. The mutations, which are considered to be highly transmissible, have now spread to other countries.
The UK-variant alone has been traced in 50 countries, territories and areas to date, said the World Health Organization earlier this month.
As a result, the WHO has urged all countries to ramp up genome sequencing to help combat the emerging variants.
Last month, the Sindh health department detected the new variant of the coronavirus in three passengers entering the country from the UK.
While Punjab has till now not detected any mutations of the virus, Younis says that the provincial health department has already started procurement of the gene sequencing machine.