UK will offer its genomic expertise worldwide to identify new COVID-19 variants

The UK will offer its genomic expertise to the international community with the aim of aiding the identification of new variants of COVID-19, the government has announced.

Countries who do not have the resources to identify new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, will be offered UK capacity to analyse emerging variants.

The New Variant Assessment Platform will be led by Public Health England (PHE), working with NHS Test and Trace and academic partners, as well as the World Health Organization’s SARS-CoV-2 Global Laboratory Working Group.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said in a statement that eventually the new platform will be led by the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP), involving PHE laboratories and staff as well as academic partner capabilities.

To apply for assistance, countries will contact the World Health Organization if an existing channel does not already exist with the UK.

“The new variants of coronavirus have demonstrated this once again so we must work to promote health security right across the world,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“Our New Variant Assessment Platform will help us better understand this virus and how it spreads and will also boost global capacity to understand coronavirus so we’re all better prepared for whatever lies ahead,” he added.

According to the DHSC, the UK has already undertaken more than half of all SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences submitted to the global database.

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