In March 2020, the online art auction group called Art Rocks, raised 9.7 million pesos to purchase COVID-19 testing kits from South Korea. The group was founded by Dr. Steve Lim, and its members include doctors, politicians, actors, lawyers, businessmen, to name a few—all of whom are patrons of local art and culture.
Today, April 8, one of the members of Art Rocks, Senator Miguel Zubiri, announced the test kits have arrived in the Philippines. Senator Zubiri, who had tested positive for COVID-19, led the turnover to the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, through the University of the Philippines – National Institute of Health (UP-NIH). The senator and two of his close friends, who wish to remain anonymous, donated close to PHP5 million, which is equivalent to 6,000 COVID-19 real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test kits.
The UP-NIH recently received from the Department of Health (DOH) its Stage 5 Laboratory accreditation, which allows the laboratory to conduct full-scale testing.
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The remaining 7,100 test kits would be given to St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) – Global City in Taguig City, SLMC in Quezon City, the Makati Medical Center in Makati City, and The Medical City in Pasig City.
In his public statement, Senator Zubiri, who experienced first-hand the effects of the coronavirus, called the virus a traitor: “Kahit mag-ingat po tayo, at mag-practice tayo ng social distancing out in public, napakadali pa rin pong mahawaan, at makahawa nito.”
He added, “Kaya kailangan na po talaga natin ng massive testing. That has been our rallying cry since we first learned that there was a case of local transmission in San Juan. We cannot battle this virus if we cannot even confirm how many of our people already have it, and which places have the most cases and therefore need tighter containment efforts.
“We are asking our people to be responsible about this virus—to stay at home and limit their exposure so that our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed. But alongside the cooperation of our people, we do still need to conduct massive testing, so our hospitals can brace themselves and respond accordingly.”
Cardiologist Dr. Fabio Posas, who helped jump start the fund drive after being confirmed as COVID positive, realized the crying need for massive testing. He said, “We should not depend on the government alone, rather we must help. We are all in one boat -the problem of our neighbor is our problem We must elicit the spirit of bayanihan so that others will rise up and contribute with their own ability.”
On April 3, the DOH announced they are hoping to run 3,000 COVID-19 tests a day by mid-April, and 8,000 tests a day by the end of the month. As of April 6, around 23,000 official tests have been conducted in the Philippines—82.7% turned out negative.