This coverage of the PAC hearing is not intended to be a verbatim transcript of the full sitting and should not be treated as such, you can listen to the full sitting here.

Continuing on from yesterday’s Public Accounts Committee evidence session with Dr Rachel Glover as part of its inquiry into the use of genomic sequencing in response to a pandemic in the Isle of Man. Here, Dr Glover discusses how genomics can be used in the fight against variants and how it can help decision making.

PAC line up;

Juan Watterson MHK – Speaker – Chair (JW)

Lawrie Hooper MHK – Vice Chair (LH)

Jane Poole-Wilson MLC (JPW)

Chris Robertshaw MHK (CR)

Julie Edge MHK (JE)

FEAT: Dr Glover (Dr G – lovely voice, she should consider audio books)

JPW: If genomic testing capability is used, you can make well informed decisions as to how to address outbreaks?

Dr G: Absolutely. I disagree with what HQ, DA and Dr H have been saying, that the variant doesn’t change our response.

A good example is the Kent variant. We know it is more transmissible. With genomic sequencing we could make decisions more quickly to mitigate variances of the virus. 

The Brazil variant is becoming a concern for the global science community as it reduces the efficacy of the vaccines. Rapid variant tests would be useful. 

Using genomics is the more modern way of managing an epidemic. The Isle of Man toolbox is traditional. 

LH: Something you said just struck me, one of the decisions we made was in respect of the construction sector, towards the end of the second lockdown, they could work outside and this time they shut them all down on the basis of concern that the sector was spreading it. We haven’t seen any data to back that up, seemed like a political decision, it seems like you’re saying if we had high resolution data with a quick turnaround we’d be able to know more about that?

Dr G: Yes it would, in early January the Chief Minister said we’d get the results from NYE cases that week, Dr Ewart said it may take longer but I knew the lab in Liverpool wasn’t open until January 6. The speed that we get results at does change that response and five days is better than not having any data but at that point if there was more knowledge about what the Kent variant could’ve done coming into the population and if we had that info quickly then it would speed up decision making on that as well.

JE: On the February cases. Gov were aware there was a case in a school on a Friday. The schools were open as they were ‘perfectly safe’ on Monday 1st march….If we had genomics would we have had a quicker response?

Dr G: Yes, I offered to do the genomic sequencing. Given the prevalence B1 Kent in the UK – I do think that even without genomic sequencing, the assumption could have been made that it needed to be managed differently. 

It seems that there was a false sense of security, they thought they could manage it in the same way as the January outbreak. 

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