Scotland's new genomic sequencing centre is a vital weapon against Covid and future pandemics – Scotsman comment

Amid the flurry of government activity to stop the spread of the Covid virus and protect the economy, the announcement of a new £13 million genomic sequencing centre in Scotland may have slipped under many people’s radar.

Dr Gregor Smith described the genomic sequencing centre as 'one of the very important clinical developments'  (Picture: Scottish government)
Dr Gregor Smith described the genomic sequencing centre as 'one of the very important clinical developments' (Picture: Scottish government)

However, chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith described the centre, which will help catch genetic mutations of the virus much faster than previously possible, as “one of the very important clinical developments”.

Dr Smith said the centre, which could analyse every positive coronavirus case in the country, would mean scientists and doctors would be able to “stay ahead of the virus”.

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And, given the threat posed by genetic mutations that are more deadly, more infectious or able to avoid the protective effects of vaccines or natural human immunity, this is a vital task.

We very much hope that the Covid outbreak is, at worst, a once-in-a-century event. But there are reasons, such as climate change, the spread of invasive species around the world, and the ease of international travel, to fear that pandemics will become more common in the years ahead.

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£13m genomic sequencing centre in Scotland could see all Covid cases analysed

So, just as we invested heavily in defence and intelligence during the Cold War that only turned hot in limited ways, we must now arm ourselves against the threat posed by a much more insidious and merciless enemy.

The death toll and the economic costs of the pandemic are far too high for governments to be caught so unprepared a second time.

The genomic sequencing centre is a welcome boost to our defences against deadly viruses, but there is still more to be done to ensure nothing as bad as the Covid pandemic ever happens again.

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