On September 29, Minister of Health and Wellness Michel Chebat joined U.S. Embassy Belmopan Medical Officer Sarah Kieffer and Dr. Kristy Murray, Director of the Center for Human Immunobiology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, on a tour of the Belize Central Laboratory to view donated genomic sequencing equipment used to detect COVID-19 variants in Belize.
The donation is funded by the U.S. government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and follows a two-week training on genomic sequencing at the prestigious Baylor College of Medicine, attended by two Belizean Central Lab staff. This U.S.-donated equipment will allow Belize to conduct its own sequencing. Developing local capacity to analyze virus samples in Belize will allow for a faster response to detecting, tracking, and responding to new COVID variants as they appear in the country.
"Genomic sequencing is a critical tool in containing the spread of the COVID-19, as well as detecting other life- threatening illnesses. Using this cutting-edge technology, health officials in Belize will be able to identify emerging variants and track how the virus is traveling from person-to-person. This important capability will help stop further transmission and save lives. This U.S.-funded training and equipment represents a key part of our nation's unwavering commitment to stand with Belize in combatting the rapidly mutating COVID-19 virus, and other illnesses, through the world's leading medical technology," Kieffer emphasized.
"We continue to extend appreciation to the United States government for their continue support during this pandemic and beyond." Minister Chebat remarked.
Over the course of the next year, Baylor College of Medicine will continue to provide support to the Belize Central Laboratory in the analysis of samples. This initiative is part of an ongoing program to support the Belizean government in understanding serious febrile and other illnesses, including COVID-19, in order to improve prevention and treatment in the country.