Philippines eyes using UP-developed coronavirus test kits in a week


Posted at Mar 11 2020 08:58 AM | Updated as of Mar 11 2020 09:10 AM

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MANILA — The Philippines next week could start using kits that local scientists developed for screening the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), regulators said Wednesday, after cases of the respiratory disease swelled to 33. 

The Food and Drug Administration approved Tuesday the COVID-19 testing kits by the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health. 

Prior to this, the Philippines had been using test kits by Japan, which were down to 2,000 units on Wednesday, said FDA officer-in-charge Eric Domingo. 

The UP-NIH test kits yield "very accurate" results in just 2 hours, while the imported kits give results in 24 hours, he said. 

"Ang pangako po nitong UP-NIH kaya nila at 1,000 a week tuloy-tuloy," Domingo told DZMM. 

(The UP-NIH promised us that they can continuously produce 1,000 kits a week.) 

"Ang directive po e within one week, up na po dapat ang testing na ito," he added. 

(Our directive is that within one week, this testing should be up.) 

The World Health Organization has "pre-qualified" the test kits, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said. 

However, a full WHO validation of the kits will take 2 to 3 months, said Domingo. 

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation earlier committed to give P2 billion for purchasing additional test kits, Duque earlier said. 

However, there is a "global shortage" of test kits, he said, quoting the WHO. 

"Meron namang pondo. Ang naging problema d'yan, iyong global supply. Iyon ang number one challenge," he told DZMM. 

(There are funds. The problem there is the global supply. That's the number one challenge.) 

Only those with fever and cough, travel history abroad and contact with a COVID-19 patient are advised to take the screening test, said Domingo. 

The government will shoulder the P2,000 test cost, Duque said.