Politics

Humza Yousaf: More funds for genomic sequencing to better respond to future pandemics



HUMZA Yousaf has insisted his desire for more funding to be spent on genomic sequencing as part of future health security measures.

Genomic sequencing has been a crucial element of the scientific response to the pandemic, particularly in identifying the spread of new variants such as Omicron in recent months.

The Health Secretary told Holyrood’s Health Committee that the Scottish Government intends to put more focus onto genomic sequencing to be better prepared for any future health emergences.

Asked if SNP ministers have drawn up “plans to increase the health protection resources in Scotland where it’s been identified there’s a need”, Mr Yousaf said: “ I think we would, particularly in the area of genomics”.

He added: “My goodness, the pandemic’s taught us a lot but it’s clearly taught us the importance of genomic sequencing.

“We have committed, as a Government…our desire to further increase our resources around genomics.”

Mr Yousaf was quizzed over a proposed new operational co-operation model between the UK Government and devolved administrations in relation to public health protection and health security.

The framework, jointly drawn up on a four nations basis, supports cooperation on issues which require UK-wide approaches, as well as on devolved issues where the sharing of knowledge, data and expertise is crucial.

The Health Secretary was asked if the framework being rolled out prior to the Covid-19 outbreak “would have made any difference to the Scottish Government’s ability to respond to the pandemic”.

Mr Yousaf said: “If a different framework was in place at the outset of Covid, would it have significantly changed the response of the four nations? I suspect not, because the data-sharing has been good.

“The collaboration on a four nations basis has been good in terms of our response to the pandemic.

“There are times where it’s been of concern and we’ve raised those and vocalised those and articulated those – sometimes in private, sometimes publicly and that’s well understood.

“But on the whole, I think that four nations collaboration on these matters – on the sharing of information – has been good.”

But Mr Yousaf said it was imprtant for the framework to be in place to allow nations to be ready for any future health security crisis.

The Health Secretary also insisted that the framework with an emphasis on collaboration, doesn’t stop the Scottish Government taking different decisions to the UK Government in response to a health crisis.

He added: “The framework, while it has those over-arching principles, it doesn’t stop any of the four nations acting in a differentiated way if it wishes.

“It doesn’t stop the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, Northern Irish or indeed, the UK Government taking decisions that are divergent to other home nations.”




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