Hundreds a day: PH ramps up testing as coronavirus cases swell


Posted at Mar 21 2020 08:26 PM

People wearing protective masks struggle to maintain social distancing as they wait for on the first work day in the country's capital since the lockdown to contain coronavirus, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines March 16, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA - Philippines is now conducting an average of 950 tests per day to fast-track the screening of the coronavirus disease (COVID-10) cases, the health department said Saturday, amid mounting criticisms of slow detection of the illness.

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa CIty can run 600 tests per day, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.

To help process the samples, the health department also opened 3 sub-national laboratories that can conduct 100 tests each per day, she added.

The other sub-national lab can administer 50 tests. Senior citizens, pregnant women and those suffering from severe symptoms are currently prioritized for the testing.

"Hindi lahat ng PUIs ay kailangan i-test. Kung may mild symptoms, hindi na kailangan i-test," Vergeire added.

(Not all PUIs (patients under investigation) should be tested. If they only have mild symptoms, no need for test.)


Latest data from the health department's tracking website showed there were 570 PUIs while 6,321 were considered persons under monitoring (PUMs).

Earlier in the week, the DOH rejected calls for a mass testing since it was not yet needed, and there were insufficient testing kits.

But Vergeire assured the public that the country now has sufficient supply of test kits to diagnose COVID-19 cases.

China, South Korea and Brunei have recently donated more than 100,000 test kits to the Philippines, she said.

During the press briefing, Vergeire also said the health department does not currently recommend the use of chloroquine in treating COVID-19 patients.

The anti-malaria pills, she said, is an off-label drug and comes with side effects. It should not be taken as a prophylaxis or a drug used to prevent infection.

"Hindi po puwede uminom kayo nito at mape-prevent na nito na mahahawa kayo o magkakaroon kayo ng COVID-19," Vergeire warned.

(Drinking this will not prevent you from getting COVID-19.)

As of Saturday afternoon, the Philippines has recorded 307 cases of the novel coronavirus. Of the total tally, 19 had died while 13 had recovered.