Filipino-produced COVID-19 test kits may be available in 2-3 weeks: scientist

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2020 09:30 AM | Updated as of Mar 16 2020 09:49 AM

Researchers work in a laboratory at the Philippine Genome Center on March 12, 2020. The center is part of the development of a local test kit for COVID-19 led by the UP-National Institutes of Health in efforts to improve early detection of the virus, expedite the mass production of the kit, and ensure its availability to the public at lower costs. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - (UPDATED) The results of field validation of locally-produced COVID-19 test kits will be made available in 2 to 3 weeks, the Filipino scientist leading its development said Monday.

"If the results of the validation is deemed acceptable to valuators then we’re ready to roll. Two to three weeks from now," Raul Destura, deputy director of the University of the Philippines’ Philippine Genome Center said in ANC's Early Edition.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier issued a certificate of exemption to the test kit, also funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), for field testing due to the increasing cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

If results from the test kit will be satisfactory, it can apply for a certificate of product registration for wider distribution, the FDA said.

Destura would however advocate for targeted testing instead of mass testing due to limited resources in the country.

"I am not for the mass testing unless a formal economic modeling study is done that says it’s beneficial," he said.

"For now, due to our limited resources, I will be for targeted testing only. Meaning there’s clinical suspicion and then you test."

Destura said it was best for patients to get tested who are experiencing symptoms of the virus as those who do not display symptoms have only 2 percent of getting a positive result.

"You just have to wait for the symptoms, otherwise it might be an economical issue having this mass testing," he said.

"Sometimes the decision point for controlling transmission is not on the result of the test. The decision point for controlling transmission is on human behavior. Even if you don’t have the results of the test and you already have the symptoms, it’s best to separate yourself from the group."

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Instead of mass testing, government should instead launch an information campaign on how to curtail community transmission and flatten the pandemic's curve, Destura said.

"Flattening the curve is giving the healthcare force enough time to attend to patients with much better intervention and assessment," he said.

"Community quarantine is to give other communities time to prepare for the event of patient surge entering the healthcare system.

Metro Manila and several provinces have been placed under community quarantine in a bid to prevent the virus spread.

As of Sunday, there are 140 cases of COVID-19 in the country, including 12 fatalities.