UK package to help Pakistan fight new variants

Published July 9, 2021
British High Commissioner to Pakistan Dr Christian Turner said that “sharing world class UK science expertise with Pakistan will help detect new Covid variants of concern and keep fighting this pandemic”.  — Reuters/File
British High Commissioner to Pakistan Dr Christian Turner said that “sharing world class UK science expertise with Pakistan will help detect new Covid variants of concern and keep fighting this pandemic”. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The British government has announced a new package of genomic sequencing support to help Pakistan fight new variants of Covid-19.

Under the New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP) programme, Pakistan will be able to draw on UK expertise and support to quickly detect new and potentially more dangerous variants of Covid-19, a British High Commission press release said.

The United Kingdom is a world lea­der in genomic sequencing for Covid-19 variants and the second largest contributor to the international database for the variants. Under an agreement re­­ached between the UK’s Public Health England (PHE) and Pakis­tan’s National Institute for Health (NIH), the British government will share its expertise and provide reagents to increase genomic sequencing capacity in Pakistan. The support will also include technical advice on bio-informatics workflow and technical processes.

Commenting on the package, British High Commissioner to Pakistan Dr Christian Turner said that “sharing world class UK science expertise with Pakistan will help detect new Covid variants of concern and keep fighting this pandemic”.

NVAP programme will be helpful in detecting potentially more dangerous variants of coronavirus

“This shows the best of UK-Pakistan friendship and our commitment to back Pakistan in building back better from the impacts of Covid-19,” he said.

The New Variant Assessment Platform is a programme announced by the secretary of state for health in January 2021. Its aim is to offer the UK’s support globally for SARS-CoV-2 new variant identification to countries that wish to monitor the variants circulating in their population, but do not themselves have the capability to identify these variants.

Strong surveillance, including geno­mics, is key to identifying and controlling the transmission of the virus. The UK support through the NVAP will provide valuable information to other countries, allowing them to strengthen their own genomic surveillance.

The NVAP is led by PHE and will be taken forward by the UK Health Security Agency, working closely with the Department for Health and Social Care and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

The NVAP will collaborate with key scientific partners both within the UK and across the world. The UK has strong scientific links globally which are being leveraged in developing the programme.

The UK is committed to equitable access to vaccines globally. At the G7, the UK announced it will donate 100 million vaccines for the world. This is in addition to the 548 million pounds funding for Covax which will provide vaccines for free to over 90 countries, including Pakistan.

The UK scientists helped development of Oxford-University Astra Zeneca vaccine, Dr Turner said, adding “we are funding a new centre in the UK that will play a key role in controlling zoonotic diseases and protecting the livelihoods of farmers”.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2021

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